Disclosure’s ‘Caracal:’ The biggest album of 2015 bears big names but no great shakes
There could be no faulting Disclosure’s audacity for album number two. Just when the duo had mastered a near impossible middle-ground of verified club hits and polished commercial cuts, they outright pledged allegiance to a full-on pop adoption. To that extent, the Lawrence brothers have remained one of UK dance music’s most exciting heavyweights of the past five years. Early landmarks such as the heavy stepping vocal offering ‘Control’ evolved quickly towards 2013’s soothsayer ‘Latch’ – a track that gave clarity to the duo’s live capacity whilst also catapulting both Disclosure and their now infamous cohort Sam Smith from UK hopefuls to respectively pioneering forces.
If their debut album Settle’s mission was to show where club records and crossover moments could share the same limelight, Caracal’s can be found leaning shamelessly towards the pop market. In absence of club records, all they really had to prove was that their inaugural UK number #1 album and likeminded single ‘White Noise’ were no fluke. More than two years later, the jury is still out for swaying as to whether Disclosure really are electronic pop’s new avant-garde crusaders.
In the first instance, Disclosure may have shown their hand a little too early. Caracal’s leading ladies ‘Holding On,’ ‘Willing & Able’ and ‘Omen’ invited the crooners back to the club floor in a timeless and widely digestible way. From here, the quality was held, but the envelope was not pushed much further. In the wake of his own meteoric rise, The Weeknd-assisted ‘Nocturnal’ should have been an outright scorcher. Compared to the lasting impact of ‘When A Fire Starts To Burn,’ the creative fires merely simmer in a way a little too close to Abel’s earlier shot alongside Kavinsky. Sure, we were warned that Disclosure had no interest in repeating the club facing work of their debut LP, but with big names come equally big shoes to fill. When you invite the A-list to the table, the results should match the merchandise.
This is where Caracal fails to deliver. Lorde, Lion Babe and Nao are topical and interesting additions to the LP, but bring little in the way of earth shaking movements from a duo who owe their careers to an ability to bend rules and beckon the masses with something new. There’s less ‘Bang That’ and more ‘Brand That’ – the product being a breed of electronic pop that keeps the boat afloat without really ever rocking it.
There’s gold among the rough to be found in the hotly anticipated record though. ‘Jaded’ is a catchy follow-up to ‘F—- For You,’ and the addition of Miguel’s sultry vocals atop ‘Good Intentions’ is a genius fit. What’s more, ‘Echoes’ shows that the fresher instrumental edge of the duo is still alive or well. You couldn’t call Caracal a creative cop-out by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s a distinct sense that where the average listener has come to associate the act with a mismatch of blurry genre handles and sub-sectors, Disclosure are aiming at the highest-common-denominator. You can’t fault them for getting ambitious on album number two, but in the absence of more than three truly timeless records, this is a collection of big names filling a medium sized canvas.
If the wider industry is to gain anything from the arguable sophomore slump, it’s that big name collaborators do not always equate to unprecedented results where the album platform is concerned, however accomplished the act. Disclosure never promised the world a second coming of polished club hallmarks with infectious pop teeth, and they sure as hell didn’t owe it one. Accordingly, those with little experience or expectation of the duo are likely to herald this as a roaring success. Caracal is likely one of the most important electronic records of 2015, but by no means one of its most impressive.