With Lightning, Matt And Kim make the glossed-up hi-fi approach of 2010’s Sidewalks a short-lived experiment: Forgoing the studio flair of that record, the twosome returns to home recording and the high-energy, few-instruments method that had previously served it so well. That’s a smart move—the slicked-up Sidewalks proved that Matt And Kim’s pop ditties make for pretty bland club music—but, in shooting for simple, they may have overcompensated a bit. As with the duo’s best work, Lightning begins and ends with uncomplicated, punchy melodies, but here the pair seems to have lost its knack for writing a catchy hook.
That’s an unexpected letdown after the bright, adventurous opener “Let’s Go,” a straightforward jam destined for sports-team warm-up playlists everywhere. Driven by airy cooing, an infectious beat, and peppy chanting, the song is a raw, gleeful party-starter. After that, however, the album mostly falls flat. More than a few tracks lack a true chorus, opting instead for monotonous, repetitive shouting: “Now,” for example, spends a lot of time yelling that word over and over again, though that’s nothing compared to “I Said,” which echoes its title to the point where a digital listener could rightly wonder if the file is corrupted.
Helping mask the underwhelming songwriting is a the duo’s boundless enthusiasm, which goes a long way—a toddler could come up with bulk of “It’s Alright” while pounding on a kids’ keyboard, but the spunky execution will surely get a crowd bouncing. (On the other hand, drowsy closer “10 Dollars I Found” suggests Matt And Kim have a ways to go before being able to compellingly slow things down.) With sprightly attitude, lively performance, and no-nonsense tunes, Lightning sticks to what had been a winning blueprint. In getting back to basics, however, the record leaves out the memorable hooks that make the whole formula work.