Pour yourself a soycafe from the jug in the breakroom, detective, and do it quick. The lieutenant’s looking for you, and the rumour is that it’s bad news.
Police Heartbreaker is the latest release from Absolute Valentine, a retrowave artist from Marseille, France. It’s a melange of sun-drenched synth sounds telling the tale of a cop out for revenge. The opener, Bad News, brings us into the tale with twin heartbeats, and fades out with one submerging beyond hearing. Two years in the making Police Heartbreaker has been teased in a few locations online, on drive-radio.com, in compilations on bandcamp, and whatever else took place in those two years the teasing has been worth it.
The lieutenant didn’t know where to look so he left you alone in the office clutching a crumpled coffee cup. The images from the security feed are replaying over and over. You paste them over the blank screen and in the back of your head the call for revenge grows louder.
I have a bias when it comes to retrowave, synthwave, and outrun. A list of checkboxes, if you will. I want a synth-led melody; the kind that takes you to a Miami beach in the 80s, the kind that puts you in a cheap raincoat sheltering under the eave of a shop along Wuhu Street as a storm scours the tarmac. The lead-in of police sirens and the menacing beat of Police Heartbreaker’s eponymous track tick that box. The engine whine of Stake Out does it again. Songs begin with auditory vignettes that imbue them with personality and make them recognisable even to a casual listener, keeping them from sliding into background noise.
You haven’t slept right in days. Your partner covered for you this morning when you came to the precinct with whisky on your breath from breakfast. You’re tired, but as the turbine in the police cruiser whirrs into life so do you.
The first half of the album is strong enough to outshine everything from Fallen Rose onward. Maybe it’s a pacing problem. Maybe it’s my own preference coming into play. Maybe, when you find yourself humming the melody to Fallen Rose in the shower, you’ll get something I missed. The overall quality on offer here is high, higher than the slightly-cheesy cover art would suggest, and it might be that’s the reason I’ve taken a critical eye. Police Heartbreaker caught me so much by surprise that it’s a shame that there’s no conclusion for me. No catharsis toward the end as the story winds up. Individually I can enjoy any of the nine tracks, but thematically I lose my grip as the album shudders to a close in No Way Out.
Your last nuyen note bought you a baozi and a cup of coffee from a street cart. Across the street, his back to you in a grimy-windowed pawn shop, you see the silhouette that’s been burned into your eyelids for days. Your pistol rides lightly on your hip. There’s no way out for either of you now.
Police Heartbreaker by Absolute Valentine is available from Lazerdiscs Records on bandcamp.com.