By Marty Mulrooney
Making Mirrors is the latest offering from Wouter De Backer, a Belgian born Australian recording artist who goes by the stage name Gotye. Released on 13th February 2012 in the UK, the album spawned the international hit ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ featuring Australian-New Zealand singer Kimbra, which reached #1 in the UK Singles chart. Making Mirrors is Gotye’s third studio album.
Gotye’s music has been compared to that of Sting and Peter Gabriel, and with good reason. Not only is his sound nostalgic and bold, but Gotye is a contemporary artist that, to the uninitiated, could feasibly belong to any era from the 1970s right up until the present day. Like artists such as Pink Floyd continually did with their own output long before him, Gotye has made a concept album with Making Mirrors that works best when all of its tracks are played together as a whole, all-encompassing listening experience. The minute-long title track that opens the album wouldn’t work effectively in isolation, but taken as a prelude of what’s to come, it’s exquisite.
‘Easy Way Out’ roars to life with a steady percussion beat that only softens when Gotye’s singing requires it to do so – moments later, the chorus blasts drums, guitar and vocals all at once to marvellous effect. This is easy listening with a sharp edge. It also serves as a perfect lead-in to ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’, the song that will no doubt have many listeners seeking out this album in the first place.
But you didn’t have to cut me off
Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing
And I don’t even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough
No you didn’t have to stoop so low
Have your friends collect your records and then change your number
I guess that I don’t need that though
Now you’re just somebody that I used to know
It’s a song completely worth all of the praise being heaped upon it, Gotye’s tender vocal performance – sounding uncannily like Sting – shifting between regret and anger, the lyrics devastatingly relatable to anyone who has ever been through a messy breakup. Kimbra’s harmonious vocal contribution towards the end of the track compliments Gotye’s vocals perfectly, bringing them closer together despite the bittersweet lyrics and sheer conviction in their voices ultimately tearing them apart.
Another standout track is ‘I Feel Better’ which, despite possibly trying to be ironic with its Cee Lo Green-esque vibe, still manages to be both rousing and uplifting. It really shouldn’t work when taking the rest of the album into account, but works regardless because you can’t quite pin it down – if it was played on the radio and presented as an old ‘feel good’ classic, you’d probably believe it without question.
Similarly reminiscent, this time of George Michael’s backing music on ‘Faith’, ‘In Your Light’ will have listeners waiting with baited breath and pricked up ears for an utterance of “Well I guess it would be nice!” Of course, this utterance never comes, but thankfully Gotye’s exuberant, almost celebratory vocals and lyrics more than make amends. Come to mention it, ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ often seems to splice orchestral James Bond leitmotifs throughout its duration too. If it’s starting to sound like Gotye is merely a mash-up of other artists, fear not. Comparisons can be made – fleeting comparisons at that – but Gotye’s sound is always wholly unique and completely his own. Even when he sounds a bit like Peter Gabriel.
Admittedly, the brilliance of the first half falters slightly during the second. Gotye is a highly experimental musician and he doesn’t always hit his mark – the workmanship of tracks such as ‘State of the Art’ is hard to ignore, but running Gotye’s voice through a computer seems almost akin to reading the bible on a Kindle – blasphemy. Musicians that actually want to create something new rather than simply regurgitate the same old sounds are an increasingly rare and dying breed. The fact that Gotye has managed to do just that by cherry picking some of the best sounds from the best artists of the past few decades – knowingly or otherwise – deserves recognition. Making Mirrors’ mileage will no doubt vary from listener to listener, but it’s undeniable that this is one of the most original and heartfelt albums of recent years.
8 OUT OF 10