Having been around the block as frontman of Crayon Fields and also as Sly Hats for quite some time, Geoffrey O'Connor emerges with the first solo album under his own name. Two years in the making, Vanity is Forever plays out like the soundtrack to an 80s romantic drama, with its synths, stadium drums and sweeping orchestration. Duet with long-time collaborator, Jessica Venables, Things I Shouldn't Do – all squidgy synth sounds and yearning lyrics – is a perfect example of this. The sound is so 80-leaning that it's hard not to conjure images of a young and handsome Mickey Rourke looking moody while Kim Basinger pouts alongside him. Which of course, is no bad thing.
Along with power-balladry, the record ventures into dance and funk as well, all in a very reserved fashion. Proud opens like Madonna's La Isla Bonita before moving more towards early Pet Shop Boys, when they were at their most sober (before the silly hats and the Go West cover – think, instead, Being Boring). While O'Connor's vocal has much smoother edges than Neil Tennant's, there are similarities in the way, at times, lyrics about love and lust are delivered in fashion that flits between passionless and shy. It is rather interesting. This, combined with the album's slick production, results in something that keeps the listener intriguingly at a distance for the most part. Very cinematic, at times grand and sweeping yet also incredibly held-back, Vanity is Forever takes an unashamed step back into the 80s, yet it does so without resorting to the easy and lazy trick of smothering the whole thing in irony and parody.
Review by Bobby Townsend. It first appeared in Sydney's Drum Media.