When Glass Animals swept onto the scene in 2014 with ZABA their leisurely debut album, frontman Dave Bayley’s mind was submerged somewhere deep in the jungle. His nonsensical lyrics, rain forest synths, and ‘peanut butter vibes’ detached the band’s music from his personal life. Then came How To Be a Human Being (our 2016 album of the year) where Bayley used fictional characters (and the occasional tropical fruit) to personify narratives away from himself. Now, on their third album, the band have shed the last wall of defence, unbolted the door, and granted you full access into Bayley’s psyche. “Welcome to Dreamland”, you hear on a tannoy as you enter, “please switch off your mobile phone”.
You step into a clinically white room, and as your retinas adjust, you here the first chimes of the opening title track. “You’ve had too much, of a digital love,” sings Bayley tenderly, in what feels like a self-scolding stream of consciousness. “You see no highland glow, you see in airplane mode,” he continues, in what equally feels like a direct address to you, the digital junkee listener.
As your vision clears, you see a frosted reception. An Ex Machina style receptionist softly instructs you to leave your phone on the desk, before directing you to an entrance on your left. The door is gently pulsing from the bass vibrations beyond it, and there is a distinct orange glow coming from around its perimeter. You enter.
The tinkering ‘Hotline Bling’ style beats of ‘Tangerine’ blast out as you step over the threshold into a sauna-like chamber with huge cheese plants in each corner. This sure-fire future single is a sweltering ear worm about an eroding relationship. ‘Hot Sugar’ which follows is similar, but lacks that instantly infectious hook.
You take a seat, and the sauna melts away around you (keep with me on this). You are now behind the wheel of a cobalt blue mustang, driving 90mph down a deserted Los Angeles highway. ‘Space Ghost Coast to Coast’ is blasting on the radio. The hip-hop influenced track which features production from LA music engineer Derek Ali (better known as MixedByAli, who has worked with Dr Dre and Kendrick), is the most polished sound to come from the album. Bayley escaped to LA for some headspace following the tragic cycling accident in Dublin which left Glass Animals’ drummer Joe Seaward with a broken leg, fractured skull, and brain damage. He has since made a recovery.
It is not only the LA sessions and this traumatic accident which haunt this dark Americana track though. When growing up in Texas, Bayley had a friend who later went on to take a gun to school. “We were just two Texas toddlers. Pokemon and bottle rockets,” he remembers, pondering on what led this person to their decisions.
This American speedway dreamscape continues into the Denzel Curry featuring single ‘Tokyo Drifting’. A momentous ego trip, backed by NOS-fuelled trap beats. “Wavey Davey’s on fire. You still got it, you still got it, alright,” Bayley assures himself in this ecstasy inducing acid trip.
This confidence does not last. Your car speeds of a bridge, in slow motion, as ‘Melon and the Coconut’ plays. “How did this all go so Pete tong?” asks Bayley, over liquid synths, as you slowly enter the water.
‘Waterfalls Coming Out Your Mouth’ and ‘It’s All So Incredibly Loud’, soundtrack your submersion with their immersive, dewy production. On the latter, a parading percussion crescendos into an anxiety inducing chaos like a gasp for air. “Heartbreak was never so loud,” wails Bayley over the building tension.
This building sense of unease continues with ‘Domestic Bliss’. “I see the bruise. I see the truth. I see what he did to you,” Bayley sings, as he recalls witnessing a friend’s mother in an abusive relationship when he was a youngster. While it feels sonically uncomfortable, this distressing narrative remains well hidden behind the tropical facade of Glass Animals illustrious production.
You regain consciousness on the shoreline of a deserted island. The sweltering hook of fourth single ‘Heat Waves’ floods your ears as you wipe the sweat from your brow. As your hand reaches out to block the sun’s radiating gaze, the plucky guitars from the final track, ‘Helium’ conclude your time in Dreamland, and everything goes white. The clinical reception emerges around you once more as the track loops back to the chiming chords from the title track. You collect your phone and scroll through Twitter to see what you have missed.
This kaleidoscopic journey of Dreamland is a resounding triumph, and a sensational digital detox, showcasing that there is far more to explore in Wavey Davey’s head than simply pineapples and peanut butter vibes.