One of the newer and more interesting albums from Australian band The Empire of the Sun, released in 2008, is called “Walking on a Dream”. The album is a collection of songs from their previous albums and is presented as a single, but also contains a wealth of tracks not related to their other projects. This includes songs from their self-titled 1997 album, No I. And from their breakthrough self-titled album, The Island of Snakes.
The songs on this album are more diverse than some of The Empire of the Sun’s previous material. Where’s The Empire of the Sun is primarily a death metal genre, but the opening track, Walking on a Dream, has a very dramatic piano solo. The title track, on the other hand, contains a lovely guitar lead that serves as a welcome departure from the death metal sound the band had previously offered on prior albums. It’s a song that exemplifies everything that the band is capable of: melodic lead guitar, catchy melody, dramatic tempo, and strong doses of heavy metal. This is just about everything The Empire Of The Sun has ever done.
A lot of bands will release an album with a similar concept as The Island of Snakes, but few have taken it all the way and written a good album in the process. With Where is the Empire of the Sun, however, the band proves they can still go ahead and make great albums even when they’ve already created a hit single. If anything, the band may have found a way to make their previous material stand out more on an artistic level. Even though the opening track, Walking on a Dream, sounds like a rehashed version of The Island of Snakes, that doesn’t take away the album’s quality. In fact, the album is better because of it.
Throughout the second half of The Empire of the Sun’s record, you’ll hear them performing a handful of songs from the somewhat-best-selling 2021 album The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Songs. It doesn’t matter what people think of this song; it’s one of their best. But then where is The Empire of the Sun? For many people, The Empire of the Sun Band was already a crowd-pleaser in the first half of the album. But the second half, where they perform Live Forever and Home of the Sun, don’t really match up to the first half.
I believe the problem lies with the opening track, Walking on a Dream. This is probably the band’s most “standard” song, but it also isn’t memorable. It doesn’t have a hook, it doesn’t have a fantastic vibe, it doesn’t have a great use of dynamics. It’s simply not memorable. I’m willing to bet that not a lot of Aussies listened to this song because they hadn’t really heard the Aussies in action before, so when they saw the video for it on YouTube they just lost interest.
But what about the band’s other albums that were released between Juneau and August 2021? Do those songs still rate as high as the ones from the second half of the album? Well, I’ll say this: Every band performs songs that are memorable for a reason. If you dig deeper into the music, you’ll find that those memories become embedded in your head. With Empire of the Sun, it seems that this band wanted to remind Australian audiences just how special they are.
And those moments certainly come out of nowhere. When Dream is performed at the 2021 Melbourne Jazz Festival, you almost feel like it was written just for you. The opening notes, as the band calls it, just strikes a chord, and instantly you know it will be an amazing night. It’s an introduction to a series of songs from Dream, and it ends with a stunning encore of “Don’t Worry.” It’s one of the most uplifting and dream-like songs they’ve ever played.
And now for the second part of this dream-like opening, Dream was introduced with a rendition of “We Are the Champions.” The song is about overcoming the challenges of adolescence, and how dream really can be true. The band also included a video of them walking the red carpet prior to the concert, and they wore red and white checkered shirts to match. You could say this is sort of an update of Peter Mayes’ “Dream” video, but it never compares to the emotional power of the original.
After the encore, I made my way to the stage where Dream was played. The crowd response was very positive, and I was able to hear the band members giving their full attention to me. They had spent time working on the new material, and they delivered. It was obvious that this band means a lot to their fans, and they wanted to make sure that this second album is as good as its predecessor. They opened with a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Who is it?”
During the middle of “Who is it?” I asked the band if they had a song that everyone had sung along to when they were growing up, and they said they missed the original version. Of course, I didn’t know then what would later happen with “My Humps,” but that’s another story. In the end, I was blown away by the performance, and my dreamsicle nap soon turned into a full-blown nightmare, as I woke up next to my wife, totally exhausted, but extremely happy that I’d made it through the night without one.