Crisp and insistent, Dimes and Quarters effortlessly kicks off this new Broken Robots EP in magnificently confident style: elements of many genres mashing and meshing together to create something greater than the sum of its parts.
The swells and effected vocals create psychedelic hugs of sound which, amongst the sharp picks of guitar and syncopated bass, are immediately satisfying to the first time listener – at least to this one, anyway! It’s playful and joyful, with half-time pre-chorus sequences that elevate the arrangement and production to a level of sophistication, which doesn’t dissipate over the run of the EP’s 5 tracks.
I’m compelled to make a comparison to bands like Garbage and The Ting Tings, but this feels more opulent and more indebted to classic influences – especially when a measured, controlled rock guitar solo makes its presence felt. A similar attitude to these acts is intact, sure, but less snarly and perhaps more self-assured.
I’m also drawn to mention Life In Mono, and their wonderful Formica Blues album. And nevermore so than when Fourteen to One comes roaring out of the traps in a deluge of sonic information that feels like an aural sugar rush of deliciousness. This wouldn’t sound out of place on a Public Enemy cut! I did not see that coming… then the indie rock sensibility leavens the hip hop and scratching with an intelligent, pumping groove of bass that climbs all around the production while vocals, panned hard left and right, spit out crisply-enunciated lyrics from the side-lines. Guitars chug and chop and my head is left spinning.
Drippy is up next, and it’s different again. Vinyl crackle and sonic swells introduce a more languorous, sultry and jazzy vocal delivery this time, coupled to some whip-smart lyrics that really penetrate: ‘I think I’m bullet-proof and you’re paper maché’.
The multi-tracked vocal production technique really pays dividends here – the layers are smooth and sugary and the insistent nature of the melodic arrangement means they are practically ceaseless in the track. This proves to have a hypnotic effect that comforts the listener, while the rhythm section is allowed to punctuate, stopping and starting, as guitar pokes its head through from time to time to create a ripple in the listening waters. An icy, spectral keyboard arpeggiates in the background and reverbs and sweeps all help create a trippy, laid-back soundscape that suits the portamento vocal stylings beautifully. It’s gorgeous.
Mockingbird is up next, a witty and modern slice of indie rock that zips along very nicely, thank you. The binary lyric of zeroes and ones must have been a nightmare to learn and deliver, showing dexterity and confidence in spades. It also neatly ties into the band’s name! I particularly enjoyed the moment where the whole track deliberately performs a sonic glitch to underline the point.
The whole is effortlessly underpinned by thunderous grooving bass that does a great job rooting the whole set. It’s got its own language which, for my money, bolsters everything without being too showy: equal measures rhythmic discipline and playful tunefulness. On this track, it allows all the great ideas the chance to breathe magnificently. It’s almost as if its presence is defined by its absence – you miss it in the gaps!
The EP concludes with Burn It Down – extremely satisfying and displaying yet more of Broken Robots’ charm and confidence. The guitar and bass lock into the same groove that drives everything hard, and then we get some wonderful psychedelic and trippy sequences, including a magnificent wind-down at the end. It prompts me to listen to the whole collection again. Which I immediately do.
The Escape Artist EP is imaginative, confident, shiny, layered, complex and stunningly produced, played and mixed. When something like this comes along, it’s time to sit up and take notice. I’m sure that repeat listening will only enhance the experience. Sure, it’s not easy listening. And thank goodness for that.
‘You could be a thread and I’ll be a needle’, as said in Fourteen to One. No idea what they mean, but I know what I think it means, and they sound like they have something to say. Their music makes me want to listen.