The sophisticated monologues of London electronic duo Real Lies have an obvious precedent. It’s hard not to compare them with 1980s synth pop-duo The Pet Shop Boys. Among other similarities both bands feature former music journalists as lead singers. Real Lies have remixed a Pet Shop Boys track.
In a 2019 interview, vocalist Kev Kharas told the Islington Gazette that “‘West End Girls’ …. has always evoked what London is to me: these grim, romantic, sweeping strings and the sense that when you listen to it you’re at the centre of your own film.”
Kharas’ monologues are grittier than Tennant’s romanticism for the Pet Shop Boys. Real Lies are from the Holloway area of London; they reference Islington and Haringey in their tracks. Real Lies started as a trio, but singer Tom Watson left the band during the long seven-year interval before their second record.
Real Lies Album Reviews
Tom Watson and Kev Kharas met while passing beer cans to each other in a club. They became flatmates, and Patrick King, who had played football with Watson as a teenager, DJed parties at their house. The trio began working on songs, and Real Life includes their early singles as part of their debut album. Real Lies is like a love letter to the late 1980s and early 1990s, with echoes of New Order and house music. Of the two vocalists, Kharas is the most intriguing, and the record can be generic when he’s not in the limelight, as on ‘One Club Town’.
This was the first track we finished, but we had a party to celebrate and made so much noise downstairs that we didn’t hear someone breaking in upstairs and stealing the laptop it had been finished on. So we had to start all over again.Kev Kharas and Tom Watson on Dab Housing, The Guardian
Kharas’ story-telling is often terrific – “Always thought you were holding me back/But it turns up you were just holding me together” is a typically excellent couplet from ‘North Circular’. There are some strong musical moments too – the way the woozy introduction comes out of the reporter’s question in ‘Dab Housing’ is brilliant. The record’s front-loaded – the Jean-Luc Ponty sampling ‘World Peace’ and opener ‘Blackmarket Blues’ are among the highlights.
Real Life is a promising start, but the band would become more interesting with Kharas as the only vocalist.
Real Lies endured some tough times after their 2015 debut Real Life. They were dropped from a lucrative record contract at the last minute, while Watson left the band, leaving a duo of King and Kharas. But Lad Ash represents a strong comeback from adversity, a sophomore album with an unusually long gestation. The entire record is strong, but ‘An Oral History of My First Kiss’ stands out, both for an amazing title, some gorgeous music, and some of Kharas’ best lines.
There’s an awkward gap between childhood and being properly teenage. A peripheral shadowland of not quite being enough. From early on, I was obsessed with the adult world, staying up late with talk radio and strange Channel 5 sex comedies, and at wedding parties I’d be trapped in the glare of the full beams, groups of family friends and older second cousins stood about in circles – drinking, flirting, smoking… telling jokes and working up a sweat to early 90s ‘chart dance’ – less a genre or a scene, more a self-fulfilling Prodigy. I’d eat chicken legs and wonder what it was that they were all so excited about, at the same time dimly aware there were conversations happening close by between girls who were weighing up the prospect of you and laughing.An Oral History of My First Kiss
‘An Oral History of My First Kiss’ isn’t the only highlight. Kharas’ declaration that “I’ve never been a part of something/So bliss to reminisce” is his most memorable line. ‘Late Arcades’ also captures the majestic sweep of ‘West End Girls’, while ‘Dream On’ utilises the crashing beats of 1990s house. The synths on ‘The Carousel’ are simultaneously glitchy and unpredictable, and glimmeringly beautiful.
It would be easy for this nostalgic and romantic music to tip into self-parody, but Lad Ash is front-to-back classiness.
Best Real Lies Songs
An Oral History of My First Kiss
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