At their best, duos are a uniquely formidable type of creative chemistry. Whether Simon & Garfunkel or Pet Shop Boys, Steely Dan or Soft Cell, an alchemical magic occurs when two simpatico minds go in pursuit of a singular result. Memphis, Torquil Campbell and Chris Dumont, have been making music together since the late 1990s, quite some time before the former achieved worldwide success as singer in Canadian quintet Stars.
He and Dumont both used to live in New York City, where the burgeoning fantasy of their very own band provided mental escape from a day-to-day existence of borderline poverty in one of the planet’s most unforgiving cities. Campbell soon returned to his native Canada to pursue his future with Stars, while Dumont remained in Manhattan, working first as a carousel operator in Central Park, then as an actor in a prestigious opera house.
But the friendship persevered, and the trials and changes Campbell and Dumont experienced have been channeled into an album that is a beautiful, bittersweet document of lives in flux, and time having its way with our assumptions of permanence. It’s called Here Comes A City, and while the title is undoubtedly a nod the song by Australian pop gods The Go-Betweens, it’s also an acknowledgment of the nomadic nature in which the album was made.
While melodic beauty and unashamed lyrical romanticism remain the core components of Memphis’ music, Here Comes A City, like its title, is often darker and denser, possibly troubled and distracted in places. From the declamatory anthem “Apocalypse Pop Song” to the tense, ambiguous “I Am The Photographer” and the hushed declaration of to-the-grave love that is “M+E=Me,” the album sounds like an acknowledgment (and, ultimately, an acceptance) of the things that are beyond our control, and how familiar things provide a cushion against uncertainty. “Memphis is a very personal reflection of my life and my long friendship with Torq,” says Dumont. “It’s infused with bits and pieces of my day-to-day life and experiences.” “Age inspired it, I reckon,” Campbell glibly interjects. “Age and, you know, the usual Memphis influence: drugs.”