Metro Weekly

Music Review: Walt Disco Is Loud, Charismatic, And Wondrously Eclectic

Walt Disco is something truly special, as the band blurs genres and torches the rulebook on its dazzling debut album.

Walt Disco -- Photo: Neelam Khan Vela
Walt Disco – Photo: Neelam Khan Vela

For the uninitiated, there might be no better intro to Walt Disco than the music video for “How Cool Are You,” released earlier this year.

Featuring the band hamming it up on a skating rink in purposely loud, garish outfits and makeup, it is as punky, queer, and disarmingly fun as the Glasgow sextet themselves.

With a stunning EP already under their belts, the band, led by magnetic lead singer James Potter, has now released their impressive first full-length album, Unlearning (★★★★★).

Walt Disco comes across as brash and anarchic in both their sound and their ethos, but what becomes quickly apparent to anyone who listens to Walt Disco is that they are not only talented, they have done their homework, too.

Proudly copping from glam rock, art pop, new wave and the Scottish post-punk scene, Walt Disco’s sound is loud, charismatic, and wondrously eclectic. Potter’s throaty, dramatic vocals, which land somewhere between Bowie and Bauhaus, are a surprisingly versatile vehicle for lyrics that range in mood from brooding to manic and everything in between.

Indebted as they are to a handful of movements that crested in the ’80s, they avoid coming across as a pastiche of them. In the best tradition of those genres, they borrow extensively but recombine them to create something that is completely their own that all but defies categorization.

Unlearning features an array of crunchy, whiny, and shimmering synths that bring their gothy, punky sound into the 21st century. They flirt with hyperpop on some tracks and occasionally outright embrace it, getting almost bubblegummy on tracks like the hazy, plaintive “Timeline” or the glittery, high-energy “Hold Yourself As High As Her.”

As if to make a grander point about their own versatility, Potter channels David Byrne on the funky, new wavey “Be An Actor,” a track that almost sounds out of place on the album but somehow works.

After a grinding, industrial interlude, cheekily titled “The Costume Change,” Walt Disco goes all-in on a heavier second act, having frontloaded the album with the more straightforwardly fun tracks.

Even in their more melodramatic moments, they are nothing if not self-aware, keeping up a sense of grinning playfulness even on the album’s darker tracks like the breakup ballad “My Dear” or the intense, imperious single “Macilent,” co-written with Jessica Winter.

The latter in particular leans so deeply into growling, industrial goth rock that it loops back on itself and becomes the best kind of dark kitsch.

Tight instrumentals and charismatic punky spirit aside, what makes Unlearning a truly special album is its proud queer undercurrent. Having already smoothly positioned themselves as standard-bearers of a proud, uncompromising queerness with their EP, Unlearning solidifies that status.

On the cathartic dance punk number “Cut Your Hair,” Potter intermittently barks out the phrase “Young, hard and handsome,” which incidentally is also the title of a gay porn that lent its name to the EP the song was originally featured on. Heartbreak, the giddy excitement of flirting with a stranger, the sometimes dangerous comparisons we make between ourselves and our peers, are of course all universally relatable in some way or another. But Walt Disco manages to put their finger on the ways those feelings find unique and intense expressions in queer lives.

Almost intimidating in its ambition and scale, Unlearning is an impressive debut from a group who have quickly established themselves as masters of a craft. It is complex and intelligently constructed, but true to form, Walt Disco sound grounded and at ease, maintaining their sense of authenticity and DIY sensibility throughout.

It’s not often you come across an act equally indebted to The Associates, Sophie and ABBA, and to find that package in a group of queer punk rockers singing about queer joy, queer heartbreak and unapologetic pride at being queer in the world, makes it clear that Walt Disco is something truly special.

Unlearning is available to purchase and stream. Visit Follow the band on Twitter at @waltdisco.

Walt Disco
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