Thursday, 1 April 2010

Album Review - Apparatjik 'We Are Here'

In my impatience for another Mew album the news of a supergroup consisting of Mew’s Jonas Bjerre, Coldplay’s Guy Berryman and a-ha’s Magne Furuholmen sounded more than appealing. Apparatjik are the latest supergroup to grace our ipods following the trend of the recent outburst in bands such as Them Crooked Vultures, The Dead Weather and Broken Bells.

The album opens on a raucous and punchy distorted synth line which plays off Jonas Bjerre’s dreamily misty vocals matching the notes of a softer ringing synth melody, a technique reminiscent of the opening of Mew’s The Zookeeper’s Boy. It’s a captivating opening and a promising one.

Throughout the album signs of the members roots are revealed and mix curiously well resulting in a camp 80s Mew with electronic synths so raw in their sound I half-expect Marc Almond to bellow all over it or even Kraftwerk’s Ralf Hütter to say something banal over the top like ‘Vitamin’ or ‘Motorway’. So that’s a-ha and Mew’s contribution to the band, but what about Guy Berryman as spokesperson for Coldplay? There are no obvious ties to the Coldplay style of music through his playing, the only real similarity being the mainstream appeal of the band. But it’s nice to see Berryman stepping out of the comfort zone (at the amount of records Coldplay sell, I can imagine very comfortable indeed) of pop songs and Jay-Z endorsement and trying something more...European?

I like the mixture of the classic unsubtle, sharp and pure dancy sounding synths of the 80s to more contemporary styles throughout the album, such as the auto-tune on Data-Scroller, which is used subtly and not to cover up the fact that the user can’t sing; Kanye West springs to mind. The youthful energy of the electronic drums reminded me of the a-ha classic Take On Me in a song that mixes the old and new featuring elements similar to James Yuill and Marching Band. These two styles work surprisingly well together, with even some Crystal Castle-esque gameboy style electro blended with subtleties that bring it back down to earth and make it more accessible. Summarised it’s a real mix of modern electro-pop and it’s classic influences. The album exudes a fun and energetic feeling, but sadly not much more.

This is by no means any of the members finest work and strikes me as the listener as being a break from a fully concentrated band and as a result we get a little side project and not a supergroup. The word ‘supergroup’ probably puts more pressure on a band as it suggests the forthcoming music will be better than all contributing groups put together, but I think a lot of people let go of that idea when Feed The World was first unleashed upon the planet. I rarely find myself coming back to the album as nothing has really stuck and the album to me lacks captivation.

I do however feel Take On Me would have been a more interesting song had Mew written it, but alas they were beaten to it.

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