Nostalgic house music can be incredibly powerful when done right, when songs are assembled with personality, intent and deft production. The odd thing about Hercules and the Love Affair (HLA) is that there is no real identity associated with the band and so it is that Blue Songs seems to float around a musical concept of Chicago house-influenced pop with no real heart. While this might be fine if you want to switch off and relax with the last warm breeze of summer and some good conversation, there is little offered in the way of dynamics or arresting beats as their debut boasted.
Most associated with the earlier incarnation of HLA not with ringleader Andy Butler, but guest Antony Hegarty for their most notable track, Blind. Here, the most notable guest is Kele Okereke who turns in a limp-wristed effort on the insipid Step Up. More impressive is the gliding, pulsing bassline, heavily compressed brass and four-to-the-floor beats of Falling (almost worth price of admission alone) and the late-80s encapsulation of My House, which oozes late-80s nostalgia in an infectious way, the only songs which really build on their beginnings.
Nostalgia seems to be Butler's main motivation on assembling Blue Songs. While it can be glorious to be reminded of an era when someone resurrects their hybridised version of it, it’s less exciting when their version is so faceless and any chance to connect with the music is challenged by shifting vocalists, none of whom leave a strong enough impression.
HLA leave their boldest move for last, with a bizarre, beatless, breathy cover of Sterling Void’s seminal It’s Alright, which only reminds you how great the Pet Shop Boys cover was, a band whose Behaviour album Blue Songs would dearly love to be.