There’s been a new trend in electronic music during the past year. Bands and artists are now starting to take a darker look on technology, club-life and the future. Electronica heavyweights like Primal Scream, Death In Vegas and David Holmes, have all released death-disco albums, in which the music booms, drugs flow and people dance. Instead of the smiley-face optimism of the early rave scene, these albums, with their darker sounds and themes are more akin to a future ala Bladerunner In defense of these bands, though, each of their albums have all been among the best of the year.
Now, the British duo Dirty Beatniks weighs in with its American debut, Feedback (Wall of Sound). While it’s not quite up to the level of Primal Scream’s XTRMNTR or David Holmes’s Bow Down to the Exit Sign, it is an amazing debut.
To make its unique sound, the band takes the 4-on-the-floor beat of house, the cheesy flourishes of disco and bass lines straight out of funk. Then the Beatniks sleaze it up. This is immediately apparent on the opening track, and first single, Disco Dancing Machines. The song has a beat that it as robotic as the name would suggest. A vocoded-voice chants the title over and over while synth lines and low bass pulse in and out. Over this metronomic-style, vocalist Mau chants I love it, I really love it, like someone lost in the machine. This track is meant for the dance floor.
Feedback has several songs that should make their way into any good DJ’s play list and would be perfect to have booming out of your car on your way to a late-night club. Curled Up in the Bassbin, is a song built almost solely out of bass and beats, with hardly a hook in sight except for Mau’s rapping. As boring it may sound, the band pulls it off because the bass is so booming that it pounds its way into your head. Whores, Freaks, Saints and Angels, is another great sleazy disco track with a late `70s sound updated for the new millennium. Its slinky beat and funky bass has an urban feel. The New Adventures of Sandy and Bud sounds like it would have fit in perfectly on the Run Lola Run soundtrack. The beats have a sense of urgency that keeps the song moving and the listener on edge. It is like being wired head-on late at night with no signs of coming down.
The standout track on Feedback, and the next single if anyone has sense, is the oddly named Kris Kristofferson. Why the Beatniks decided to name their best song after a half-forgotten country singer/actor is a mystery, but this track is one of the best songs of the year. It has a bombastic, grandiose opening ala Puff Daddy’s remake of Kashmir that makes you sit up and on the edge of your seat. A low frequency bass line hits you deep in the stomach while menacing guitars and synths are piled on top. Mau’s sinister vocals are buried in the mix, creating an air of paranoia and isolation.
There are some missteps, though, that keeps this from being a perfect album. While the Dirty Beatniks know how to get people up and moving, they don’t quite pull it off when they try to slow things down. Songs like Low Rock and Bullet-Proof sound semi-finished and almost bland. The spoken-word piece of Any Flavor but Vanilla doesn’t fit with the rest of the album. The last song, We All Beautiful, isn’t bad, but you quickly notice that it’s pretty much the same song as Whores, Freaks, Saints and Angels, just with different words.
Feedback may have its lesser-moments, but overall this is definitely one of the better electronic albums to come out so far this year. The Dirty Beatniks show their mastery at making people move and their innovation to come up with their own take and style.