Sadcore Electronique? Call it what you like.
When I was in high school in the late ’80s, one of the counselors brought a synthesizer, tape deck and drum machine from home and set up a miniature, primitive recording studio in one of the classroom closets. I used to spend literally hours there after school, committing musical experiments to tape. I still have some of those recordings. Depeche Mode had nothing to worry about (Well, yes they did — Depeche Mode always had something to worry about, just listen to their lyrics — but not me, is what I’m saying).
The best thing I can say about this EP is that it evokes those adolescent musical aspirations of mine. Which is a break for me, but what about the rest of you? Bobby Birdman sounds too much like someone making similar experiments and not enough like art.
Birdman, A.K.A. Rob Kieswetter, a former folkie here gone techno (join us, Rob. Come over to the dark side) was previously a member of a band called Badical Turbo Radness, which I have not heard (but you’ve got to love that name). He debuts here as an electronica artist following two folk outings. The results are a lot like looking at a fuzzy, indistinct photo of something that looks like it might be quite beautiful if you could tell what the hell it was (or a Depeche Mode album cover).
It’s icy, but not because of the technology — Dot Allison is just as Casio-driven, but surprisingly temperate. It’s just that Birdman sounds badly disconnected here, as if he’s not particularly interested in the things he’s singing about. And if he’s not gonna be…
Production is adequate, though a little more craft work might have been wished for (paging Adrian Sherwood). Lyrics are drawn from the tried-and-true well of pop songs: Sex, sex, sex. Notably on “I Will Come Again” (it’s about exactly what you think it’s about) which otherwise sounds really quite cheesy, kind of like a wedding singer (or, for that matter, The Wedding Singer). “A Feat So Bold” sounds a bit like a less subtle, narrower Underworld, though it remains an open question whether we needed a less subtle, narrower Underworld.
Lord knows I love my rock electronique from Depeche Mode to Laptop, but for the most part, this I just don’t get. That said, the pensive, minimalist “And Then It Begins” (which you’d think would be the first cut, but no) creates an appealing science fiction/techno-pop minimalist landscape. “Ultra Shape” synthesizes vocals in a charming, if cautious, manner before devolving into the sound of a game of Atari Missile Command gone horribly awry.
If my response to Birdman’s EP is reserved, let me also say that this is far from the worst CD I’ve heard this year (that would be Ape Has Killed Ape). I don’t mean to single it out for abuse. It’s not out of the question that a certain sprawl would help this work — that is to say, being on a full album of similarly-themed material might just give it the appearance of substance it currently lacks.