There’s something odd happening with music today: people like to dance again. There was a time when people could dance to anything, mostly in the ’80’s when even goth kids happened to move their ankles a bit. Today? Dancing is about as rudimentary as popping on those headphones before the brisk morning walk to work. In an era where Daft Punk are legends and LCD Soundsystem sneak into every dance club here or overseas, it’s not hard to see that a band like Ghostland Observatory is reeling in a widespread fan base.
Robotique Majestique is the latest in a positive trend the band has been running on. It started with the 2006 sophomoric, breakout album, Paparazzi Lightning, and blossomed into tight, energetic live performances, including a very celebrated Lollapalooza appearance last August, which happened to catch Perry Farrell’s attention, who personally endorsed the band for future success. So, what about this third album?
“Opening Credits” is more or less an homage to the brilliant scores of past science fiction mania, namely Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult-classic Blade Runner. The quaintly titled track works as a harbinger for the album, hinting at the epic reaches the band aims for here. Shortly thereafter, “Heavy Heart” throws a beat and propels it forward, which heightens the mood some. Vocalist Aaron Behrens borrows a bit from the late Freddie Mercury, saving the double tracks for the likes of The Darkness, and instead instilling that gritty operatic style that worked on “Another One Bites the Dust.” He even starts the album out somewhat preachy: “This will always be the start and this will be the rain/This will always be the love and this will be the pain/ This will always be the God and this will be the slave/ This will always be the one and this will be the way.” Again, it’s all epic and he curve balls every gasp of air with another catchy chorus that slugs the face.
Tracks “Dancin’ On My Grave” and “The Band Marches On” are no exception to this rule. The former still grabs from Mercury, only now there’s hints of Loverboy (think “Turn Me Loose”) working with a glossy ’80’s production. The latter is just as sleek, but scaling ahead into the early ’90’s now. Trust me, Robotique Majestique is a trip down memory lane, where listeners finally have a chance at waving to friends C&C Music Factory, Madonna (circa the sex obsessed Erotica era), and even the likes of the Tom Tom Club.
Eventually, the album does tire. Where the title track, “Robotique Majestique”, works in mixing long, heavy instrumental breaks with Behrens chiming in every once and awhile, songs “Holy Ghost White Noise” and “Club Soda” (the drum beat to this sounding oddly familiar to Phil Collins’ “Sussudio”) grow stale. Aside from the aggressive, pseudo dance-punk number, “HFM”, the second half drags on with one monotonous beat after the next, until finally reaching the agreeable closer, “Free Heart Lover.”
Without a doubt, these later tracks will find it’s proper place live on stage, though here they suffer from sequencing that tends to blend, but for all the wrong reasons. At times the last few tracks were reminiscent of those aggravating MIDI sounds that seemed to always follow those hard-to-beat levels on the old 8-bit Nintendo. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? You’ll have to decide yourself.
The beauty behind Robotique Majestique, and perhaps the band itself, is that there’s something here for everyone. There’s the glamor of the decadent 1970’s, the eccentricity of the 1980’s, and the bold and let’s call it “mall sound” of the 1990’s. Maybe there’s a reason why everyone’s dancing these days. This music is an all you can eat buffet and everyone’s in line with a plate, ready to feel full and bloated, but somewhat satisfied.
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