This writer remembers, back in the days of (gulp) new-rave, turning on a music channel and being faced with To My Boy playing hyperactive post punk chords and glitchy Atari beeps whilst singing from the point of view of an X-Ray. Their debut album, Messages, followed a similarly eccentric course, winding its way through genre after genre, confounding at every turn.
It’s some surprise then to see their second effort, The Habitable Zone, seems to be rooted in one genre particularly firmly – ‘80s synth pop. In fact, so successful is their attempt at making an authentic-sounding ‘80s album, it’s almost entirely forgettable. The main problem lies in the fact that in our internet age we have a major label music industry clutching at sonic straws, trying find something successful and looking towards artists with an eye to the (commercially viable) past. This means that not only have we heard it all before, we’ve heard it all in the last year.
The really sad thing is it’s not a bad album. The atmospheric groove of ‘Underneath The Pylons’ is really rather good and ‘When I Was A Cloud’ is scratchy, chorus-filled and effortlessly catchy. But in listening through the duration every tinny drumbeat, passionless vocal delivery and lyric about love in the electrical era could be ripped straight from any number of other artists past and present.
No matter how good this album was, it was never going to be a true success because there doesn’t seem to be a second of originality throughout – and coming from a duo who created such an odd mix of sounds previously it’s hard to understand how this has happened.
Words: Joe Skrebels