I have seen the name of this lot plenty of times as far as on the live front is concerned and indeed note they have a headlining show at the London Underworld on the 20th of February with Faderhead. Plug given for this which comes a week or so after the release of the album. I have to say that until I had listened to ‘Til Death’ I had never actually heard the band. ‘Band’ is a bit of a misnomer as apart from a drummer and live keyboard player all music, lyrics and instruments are down to one Daniel Graves who hails from LA. It would appear I have plenty of catching up to do as this is the fifth album from the group and the somewhat macabre and colourful artwork here along with the title certainly got my interest up for hearing it.
‘Happily Ever After’ ties in with this perfectly and it seems we have some sort of anti-wedding, relationship theme going down here. The track sees mournful clean vocals along with a military drum beat that sounds like it is setting things up for an execution rather than holy matrimony. ‘There is no perfect life, no fairy tale’ are the words before vows are literally spat out with contempt over brooding keyboards. It’s a good atmospheric start and after it come a slew of good electronic numbers with some great melodies behind them which to me bridge the gap between some of the old synth-pop I grew up to and more modern electro, darkwave and ebm beats. Graves vocals are easy to get into and remind a little bit of a mix of many artists of yesteryear and the bouncy popping synth work of numbers like Antibody have a dark club feel about them. ‘Lights Out (Ready To Go)’ starts off like an old first wave video arcade game along with some sounds that remind a little of early experimental Human League. However the quirky disco etched central peel to it could have escaped from someone like the Scissor Sisters and there is the memory of a band like Erasure behind the vocals and even very early Depeche Mode. It’s totally catchy and infectious too but the jury is out on whether that is in a thoroughly annoying fashion as it is the sort of song that you could well hear and absolutely hate. There’s certainly no denying Graves song-writing ability as the album continues, as there are plenty of numbers that really latch in your head and they all are perfectly compact at around the four minute mark allowing their poppy tenacity to be fully absorbed without overstaying welcome.
There’s a touch of Mechanical Animals era sound to the keys on Big Bad Wolf and there are times I am reminded of Marilyn Manson here although if he did a song like this it would no doubt bit a lot bolder and brasher. Indeed ‘Showtime’ has the keyboard sound of his version of I Put a Spell On You going on in it at the start and I first thought it could be a cover of the cover. Vocally though it’s a whole different ballgame from the Antichrist Superstar and hopefully, by saying that there are lots of times the word ‘camp’ comes into my head, when attempting to describe his style is not going to offend anyone.
Apparently there have been three singles on the album and you can see why as most of it strikes as potential hit material. Perhaps for me that’s the slight downfall as it has a bit of a too commercial and safe feel to it for my tastes. Having said that though, I have had no problems coming back to it quite a few times and letting the songs invade and jerk me about like there is a puppet master in control of my strings. The Dark Half (along with Big Bad Wolf and Antibody) is the last of these singles and is a more up tempo and harder electro track that has a bit more of a necessary stomp about it as far as I’m concerned. At least it contains a bit of that ‘agrotech’ that I see bandied about with the band name, something I had not noticed before.
I’m definitely not going to be putting in for a divorce after this brief relationship but I am a long way off from getting engaged. Having said that though I am not opposed to the idea of another date with Aesthetic Perfection either.
(7/10 Pete Woods)