The second that STRFKR’s second full-length, Reptilians, dropped in 2011, we already had a pretty good idea of what to expect from their third. STRFKR – formerly Pyramid, formerly Pyramiddd, occasionally Starfucker – haven’t budged from the palatable electronica territory since their eponymous 2008 debut, cranking out polished EDM with hints of synthpop over and over. Think Crystal Castles without the noise, chillwave without the fog, Flaming Lips without the weird – but with the theatrics that keep venues packed. In other words, for a band that changes their name as frequently as they change their look, the music stays pretty static. The expectation for Miracle Mile isn’t what new direction the sound has taken, rather, whether the band has taken a new one at all.
The answer is a resounding “no”. Miracle Mile offers 50 minutes of new dance material, but it’s nothing we don’t already know. Superfluity is a hallmark of dance music, synth pop, and club hits. To a group like STRFKR, superfluity is the goal. We can see this in the way they release material, as if they’re Campbell soup cans off the Warhol factory line. Their songs are equal doses of dance and pop. The music is manufactured, but it still gets people to move. Which is to say, the machine works. What’s there to fix?
The area STRFKR differentiate their sound is in their live performance, which is why without the visual element, the physicality of the sound comes off flat. The only track that utilizes any sort of crescendo is the seven-minute closer, “Nite Rite”. The rest of the songs establish gentle grooves early and get comfortable. “Say to You” recalls of Montreal’s R&B schtick, complete with Joshua Hodges’ best impression of Kevin Barnes’ alto croon. Other places, the album sounds like a primitive Passion Pit, albeit with half the song structure and none of the lyrical pull.
Miracle Mile attempts to broach darker subjects in spite of its perpetual brightness, but Hodges could have sang a word-for-word rendition of Born to Run and you wouldn’t walk away from it feeling any different. The vocals remain distorted and drowned out, which can be an interesting effect. Except this record could have used them as an anchor.
Essential tracks: “Kahlil Gibran”, “Nite Rite”