West of Eden may have been one of the most anticipated debuts in 2020. HMLTD, formerly known as Happy Meal Limited, had been hailed as London’s next great band years ago due to their infamous live sets, which feature quirky venues decorated by the members themselves, while garbed in colorful glam costumes. Not only that, their experimental blend of synth post-punk, electronic pop and trap is something so bizarre you’d either love it or hate it. Whichever side you’re on though, it’s a guarantee that HMLTD has got what it takes to make it big and shake up the whole scene.
This album puts a stamp on that statement. This 15-track is rich with a variety of styles covering bold introspections on societal and political ideas, as well as the stories of people who are trapped in these conditions. Most of which are perfectly in tune to the current world climate. These are songs that provoke ideas and questions on capitalism, gender norms and thoughts on western society that are as daring and as avant-garde as their music.
West of Eden opens with “The West is Dead”, a spankingly deviant drum and bass track that questions the idea of the west and flips it over its head. “LOADED” follows with a strong vogue art-rock feel, where the band details their struggles working under a corporate label, alluding to the experience as selling themselves to the devil.
One great motif in this album are the pairs of songs that have continuity to them, all following its own interesting theme or story. “The Ballad of Calamity James” and “To the Door” are filled with Spaghetti western sounds while the latter is driven by a strong post-punk twist and a breakdown of trap music that jumps at the listener. Similarly “Satan, Luella & I” and “149” are interconnected by a thread of love and tragedy. The first track is an intriguing tale of a man who meets the devil and an innocent girl named Luella in a cheap motel where they instantly fall in love. “149” follows a few tracks later detailing their tumultuous breakup as the narrator descends into madness.
Both pairs are already great pieces of art by themselves, but the centerpiece “Joanna” and “Where’s Joanna?” tops both by a mile with its sincerity and artistic flair. This time played as a cabaret-punk piano tune, Joanna follows a person suffering from gender dysphoria. With the titular Joanna being an alter-ego that everyone wants to purge out of him. The sequel is one of their most popular live songs, featuring a gruesome yet highly entertaining fate to our closeted character.
With all the crazy stuff going on, “Mikey’s Song” and “Nobody Stays in Love” are regarded as the normal “pop” songs of this offering. They may pale in comparison to their more grandiose peers, but they prove that HMTLD have what it takes to excel in contemporary pop.
With all of its depth and uniqueness, West of Eden is an album you should not miss. HMLTD shows a lot of promise in their craft, and is surely a band we’ll hear about more in the future.