I’m not sure what I was expecting from this new collaboration between Geoff Downes (Asia, Yes, the Buggles) and Chris Braide (The Producers). Whatever you call it, though, Pictures of You is compulsively listenable.
You hear, in Braide’s anthematic and often purposely auto-tuned vocals, no small amount of the glitter-flecked optimism of Owl City. But then again, the four-song album-opening suite found on Pictures of You recalls nothing so much as Downes’ recent work with Yes on Fly from Here.
It seems that the Downes Braide Association, in the end, is really neither fish nor fowl. Anyone looking for progressive rock will likely be disappointed. Then again, those dreading an empty exercise in electro-pop should find plenty here to engage and intrigue. DBA bridges that gap like no other band, well, since Downes co-founded Asia — a prog supergroup that stormed to the top of the charts in 1982 with a similarly approachable blending of songcraft.
If anything, though, Pictures of You draws a line straight back to Downes’ seminal pre-Asia work with the Buggles, indulging in all of the carmelized hooks and mechanized cadences of early MTV-era hits. But just when you get comfy in that assumption, Braide stirs in elements of modernity (check out that crunchy rhythm on the title track) that you’d have to expect from a producer who has worked with Lana Del Rey, David Guetta and Christina Aguilera.
Braide’s vocals — which move from the breathy nihilism of Prefab Sprout’s Paddy McAloon to the keening emotion of Thom Yorke on cuts like “Road to Ruin” — are as accessible as his songwriting style. (Remember Clay Aiken’s ear-worm “Invisible”? Braide co-wrote that.) Downes, meanwhile, remains a unabashedly tasteful accompanist, even deftly referencing the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” on this project’s “Ride the Waves.”
So what is DBA? There would be, if we still had them, no conveniently marked slot for Pictures of You at the local record shop. It’s all over the place, and I mean that in the very best way.