Saturday, August 9, 2008

Midnight Juggernauts -- Dystopia (2008)

Midnight Juggernauts -- Dystopia (Astralwerks/Siberia)

If you could just throw in some cheesy crap sounding synth-drums, this album could be passed off as a lost album from the 1984 or so. This is lush, romantic pop in the vein of David Bowie, Roxy Music, Talk Talk and legions of bands that wore a little mascara from time to time. The mix of lush keyboard lines, lightly funky bass lines and soothing vocals still works after all of these years.

Let me talk about the vocals. Singer Vin Vendetta (whose also the keyboard wizard) has a Bowie-esque baritone that is perfect for this material. Sometimes it sounds a bit more like Andrew Eldritch of Sisters Of Mercy, like on “Twenty Thousand Leagues”. Part of that is because he sings in his lower register, with a throbbing bass line and little bits of keyboard sparkle dusting the edges. It all builds up to a soulful chorus. This is yet another band who understands the tugging sadness that electronic instruments can produce.

The band floats into psychedelic territory on the title track. This atmospheric tune, with more guitars, could easily be done by a band like Rockfour (or your psychedelic revivalist of choice). This is an avenue that should be explored more. “Tombstone” goes in a different direction, pushing the electronics to the hilt, with Vendetta singing through a vocoder, which sounds somewhere between Zapp and Neil Young in his Trans phase. The song has a great dance rhythm, but overstays its welcome a bit.

These tracks make the album interesting. What makes it good are the single worthy selections that start off the album. Vendetta’s keyboard lines are irresistible on “Ending of an Era”, as he mixes synthesizer surges with an insistent organ part while Daniel Stricken lays down a solid drum beat. The song builds the tension as Vendetta mumbles the lyrics, releasing in the chorus. Basically, this is an array of attractive sounds, really well arranged for maximum effect.

“Shadows” is as good or better. It follows a similar game plan sonically, but relies much more on ethereal synth sounds and a mid-tempo dance beat. The low key vocals remind me of latter day Duncan Browne (breathy and sensual), and the song verges on classic disco, and is simply suffused in cool. It’s one of those tracks that makes you move, even though the musicians don’t seem to sweat that much.

Like a lot of the ‘80s acts they remind me of, this album has its share of filler. But it’s more than outweighed by the strong pop sense and the overall appealing sound.

1 comment:

Slack-a-gogo said...

I really like this record, but my one problem with it was that the filler and strong cuts sort of blend together. If there's one "mix disc" cut here, there's 10. After a dozen listens I don't actually remember any particular songs - I just recall liking the whole record.