theme park’s debut record is the soundtrack to the best summer party ever. welcome the 70’s smooth rock revival. #soundcheck

February 25, 2013

It’s always fascinating seeing which songs and which musical movements get canonized by future generations. During the 90’s alt-rock explosion, there seemed to be this consensus that the only acts that mattered from the 70’s were Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Neil Young, Patty Smith, and the Ramones. If you didn’t make that list, too bad. One of the biggest casualties of the moment was to brand AM Gold / smooth rock irrevocably “cheesy.” Kenny Loggins, Michael Macdonald, Lionel Richie, and Steely Dan were banned from polite society for the unforgivable sin of making music that failed to express some deep existential angst and “rawness.” Their music was too smooth. It was yacht rock. (By the way: if you haven’t seen Channel 101’s brilliant series “Yacht Rock,” I suggest you check it out now. It’s the funniest thing on the internet that doesn’t involve cats.)
That’s why it’s nearly shocking listening to Theme Park’s unassuming hook-laden debut LP. Their music is smooth, and unironically so. There are no air quotes around their references to the AM Gold sounds of the 70’s.

Led by twin brothers Miles and Marcus Haughton, the band makes the soundtrack to the best summer party ever. Their first single “Jamaica” was on pretty steady rotation this past summer, and the rest of the record lives up to “Jamaica’s” effortless charm. Good luck getting “Tonight” and “Two Hours” out of your head in the next few days. These are the sort of hooks that invade your consciousness.

And yes, this is music that is unlikely to accompany any deep cathartic moment in your life. No-one’s getting a Theme Park tattoo on their chest anytime soon (though if you have a Lionel Richie tattoo on your chest, hi, I’m Nathan, I think I’d like to be friends with you.). But that’s not the band’s goal. They’re the musical equivalent of a gin and tonic. Crisp, refreshing, and yes, smooth. And who doesn’t like a gin and tonic? This is music about big hooks, about atmosphere, about fun. And on that count it delivers. Yet, there is something radical about writing songs in 2013 that hail from an alternate universe in which the AM Gold sound never went out of style. There’s something bold in embracing smoothness without irony. But mostly these are just some damn catchy songs.

– Words by Nathan Leigh