Reviews of New Releases By Cybotron, Twin Forks, The Feeling And More
Weekly records roundup.
Published: January 29, 2014
The only thing more surprising than the announcement that the Detroit Electronic Music Festival (DEMF) brand was returning this year was that electro duo Cybotron would be playing it. Regarded as the originators of the first Detroit techno record (the 1981 single “Alleys of Your Mind”), Rik Davis and Juan Atkins never actually performed together before splitting four years later — though Davis would go on to release more music under the name and Atkins would play Cybotron songs with his outfit Model 500. But now that the band is back, at least for one show, it’s as good a time as ever for Fantasy to reissue Cybotron’s debut full-length Enter for a fresh set of ears.
While Enter may not be a textbook techno record per se, like a fossil you can see traits that would turn up in its progeny. Enter aims to do a lot of things here, but, thanks to driving drum machine beats, dancing and escapism almost always top the agenda. It’s no wonder the manic arcade game chirp from “Clear” has been sampled by hip-hop artists Poison Clan and Missy Elliott.
But there’s an underlying darkness here as well — the influence of both the depths of Detroit’s decline in the ’80s and Davis’ stint in Vietnam can’t be ignored. The lyric “Clear out this space” on “Clear” is issued like a military command, and the following line “out with the old, and in with the new” is spoken with an ominous tone, a simultaneous celebration and fear of the impending technological revolution. It’s all there in the album cover art: Is the figure transcending into a digital plane or being destroyed by it? Or as Cybotron stoically posed on the debut single, “Who’ll cry for modern man?” Whatever Cybotron’s views on technology were, there’s no denying that when man met machine on Enter, it changed a whole genre of music. —Lee DeVito
Jeremy Irons & the Ratgang Malibus
Wait, that’s not the Jeremy Irons, is it? The guy from Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers and the remake of Lolita? Probably not. In fact, this is a Swedish psychedelic space rock band signed to local label Small Stone Records, so the English dude from that Die Hard movie was likely not involved at all. That’s a good thing, because he’s unlikely to be as jam-capable as these Scandinavian rockers. Yes, some of the songs keep going well after they came to a natural end. Yes, it all sounds like Hawkwind getting freaky with the Doors and Monster Magnet. But there’s a naïveté and even lushness about a song like “Wind Seized” that makes it enjoyable. Damn though, these guys can’t lay off the echo effects; it seems like every line comes at you multiple times. They’re following the psychedelia playbook page by page and to the letter. The guitar is all feedbacky and the production fuzzy. It would be a cliché-barrage if not for the fact that the songs are strong enough to carry the whole thing. Trouble is, for a band that seems to pride itself on being interdimensional, it really only has one when it comes to the music. —Brett Callwood
Twin Forks is a new project featuring Chris Carrabba of Florida’s Dashboard Confessional, a fact that, truth be told, fills us with violently icy fear, because Dashboard Confessional was a fucking terrible band. Carrabba just whined and mewled his way through one insipid tune after another. His legion of loyal followers hung on his every word like he was the new Dylan, and that just annoyed us further. So here we were, all prepared to hate this Twin Forks album to its very core. Imagine our surprise, then, when it turned out to be listenable, enjoyable even. There’s a folky element to the sound that recalls the semi-Celtic songwriting of British bands like the Beautiful South, the Wonder Stuff, and even the Levellers. Thank the gods, it’s like Carrabba found his zest for life. Perhaps it was at the back of his sock drawer, or behind an expired can of cream corn in the pantry. Either way, the man is displaying genuine joy here. Even “Back to You,” a relationship song that could have seen him crawl back into his miserable shell, sounds like a party. Consistently excellent songwriting like that fills up this unexpectedly brilliant album. —Brett Callwood
Boy Cried Wolf
The Feeling might self-categorize its music as pop, and Boy Cried Wolf is certainly jam-packed with hooks and charming melodies, but that big umbrella genre tag doesn’t come close to telling the whole story. This British band should, were there any justice, be bigger than the likes of fellow Anglo-exports Coldplay, because Dan Gillespie Sells has mastered the ability to pen poignant, radio-friendly pop power ballads; the opening “Blue Murder” kicks things off nicely. The abundance of piano inspires thoughts of Something Corporate, minus the emo leanings. Importantly, you don’t ever lose faith with the band. Sells at least appears to be totally into the songs that he has put so much care and attention into. Unfortunately, the record’s strength is also its weakness, because there are only so many heartfelt tales of woe that a listener can take in one sitting. By the time we get to track five, “A Lost Home,” the temptation to yell, “Cheer the fuck up!” is almost impossible to ignore. It’s overkill, and that’s a shame because he had us hooked for a while there. By track eight, “You’ll See,” it all sounds the same. Would the slightest change of pace have been too much to ask for? —Brett Callwood
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