DIANA | Perpetual Surrender
by Lee Adcock
As denizens of the 21st century, we can easily look back at the 80s with a smirk and write off all those bouncy synths as “outdated”, “clichéd”, and frankly “dull”. And we’re probably right, in many cases. But what do we 20-somethings know? What sounds passé to us now once touched hearts, enticed lovers to kiss, and brought solace to wearied stiffs across the nation. We can’t write off such powers too easily. As for the clichés – the steady air drums, the pitch-perfect vocalists, the lush production – remember that artists of this vein were still revising the old pop standards, and thus folks like Tears For Fears and the Eurythmics snuck in some bizarre experiments alongside their golden hits. We can’t forget this, either.
Such is what DIANA remind us. They’re based in Canada, but dwell in Avalon – that is, Avalon, Roxy Music’s revelation of an album that brought heaven to earth in the early 80s. Perpetual Surrender, DIANA’s debut, embraces the same classy romance, and incorporates a vintage pallet of synths; yet, you can feel a sweltering throb that’s decisively contemporary, and a level of sultry mystery in Carmen’s vocals.
From that first lush intro in ‘Foreign Installation’, you should be entranced, and sucked deep into the sweet lowdown of the verses. Then the chorus clashes in, later to be kissed by the soulful guitar solo – and, ohhhh, it’s a tour de force, I assure you. Of comparable pop perfection is the balmy single ‘Born Again’, a tropical kaleidoscope of bubbling vocals, cleanly picked guitars, sexy sax solos, and ethereal synths. And, oh, that chorus – “Lay your hands on me, I need healing.” What a line. Behind the overt spiritual reference lies a gentle innuendo, which Carmen brings out in her sensual delivery.
DIANA do know how to groove, too. Under the icy glazes of ‘That Feeling’ lies an aloof funk carried by the dexterous bass; elsewhere, rhythm becomes a weapon on the buoyant but seething ‘Anna’, which groans with deep analogs and oozes with confident bitterness in the catchy chorus: “You’ve been chasing a lie / I found out too late…you’ve done away with your life / so right, so empty.”
For all its glamour, Perpetual Surrender has its curveballs, too – and it’s no less brilliant for these outliers. ‘New House’, in particular, finds us alone with the songstress, a quiet padding (bit like that first half of ‘In The Air Tonight’ – coincidence?) and some key electric touches – and man, does she mesmerize. No, you’re not wasting your love on me, dear. ‘Strange Attraction’ casts a murky haze upon the LP, with its clattering, almost industrial percussion and screeching loops, yet still sounds perfectly on par with the dreamscape of the rest of the album.
I could go on and on – and I could listen, from dusk to midnight, until I perfectly pinpoint just what’s so magical about this LP. But I won’t, because what DIANA excel in can only be felt – that heavenly sensuality, that striking balance of aloof and effervescent passions which was very much alive in the romantic New Wave movement, but revitalized in Perpetual Surrender. It’s like an affair from a distance, with a lover that you’ll never know – intense, all-consuming, and eternally mystifying.
Perpetual Surrender is released on August 20th, via Jagjaguwar.