30 Aug 2006

My Robot Friend - Dial 0

The Soma Records website describes My Robot Friend's album, Dial 0, as a "hyper electro-pop opus that plays out like a party jukebox for the 21st century" and likens it to Devo, Talking Heads, and Kraftwerk. Consisting of New York electronic artist, Howard Robot, My Robot Friend has opened for the Scissor Sisters and Le Tigre and his live multimedia shows are apparently something to be seen. Okay, so there is the record company hype, but what is the album really like?

"23 Minutes in Brussels", the opening track, wakes me up with a throbbing dance beat. Okay, it's late at night and I'm half asleep...so making my arse shake is an achievement! The xylophone effects are grin inducing and create the feeling of sunshine on my skin after swimming in the ocean all day. Lying on the sand, smile across my mug. Yes, very feel-good vibes in this song.

In the title track, "Dial 0", I see the references to Devo; mechanical, jerking vocals with some hyper-produced guitar. "The Cut" sounds like something I danced to in a dominatrix club in Berlin once; it has a dark edge with a slightly sinister sexual vibe. "Waiting on the corner generating germs...Filthy little fingers want to be your friend...Fingers never stop touching you touching you". I've never heard fingers sound so downright nasty before! The lyrics in this song are brilliantly disturbing and the sharp dance beat combined with layered effects makes this song my standout track for the album.

Third track and I'm already impressed. An artist who lives up to the hype?? Incredible. "The Good Part" shows muted guitar moods a la Depeche Mode. "One More Try" features vocals by Antony Hegarty from Antony and the Johnsons and sounds disturbingly similar to songs by '80s band Yazoo. While very accessible, this song is not one of my favourites.

"City Sounds" features alien robot vocals, a myriad of sampled machine sounds and seems to symbolise the cacophony of living in a busy metropolis like New York city. "Problems" has seriously Freudian lyrics and is quite hilarious: "Everything you do is a reaction to the way your mother combed her hair...Everything you do is a reaction to the day your father wasn't there".

"Swallow", featuring rap by Crasta Yo, is musically unimpressive and a little predictable, however once again the lyrics -- "Oral, anal, overdose, fuck you 'til you're comatose" -- crack me up. "Dead" lifts the game with violin effects and a glitch vibe, and is an indictment of the apathy of youth. This is another of my favourite tracks on this album. "Diarrhea, gonorrhea, we smoked in our beds, got crushed by the books we never read, dead".

"Rapture" is an interesting remake of Blondie's classic hit, replacing Deborah Harry's vocals with machine-like voices, the lyrics sounding as though spoken by mechanised, global corporation answering machines. Some additional lyrics make a scathing comment on current pop culture. "Electric Pants" features classical guitarist Jay Kauffman and is an ode "to the bizarre act of wearing electric pants" and what it means to be human in a troubled world: "The world that I live in is like an ambulance".

The thirteenth track, "Untitled", sounds like the Beach Boys on acid...wait...they WERE on acid, weren't they? Well, maybe it sounds like the Beach Boys in slow mo...with hand-eye coordination issues...

This is a very clever album, lyrically and musically, and just maybe lives up to the hype. Now, I'd like to see My Robot Friend's live performance...

This review was written for The Dwarf.

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