It seems to be a bit of a trend at the moment for guitar bands (particularly those of the emo / post-hardcore persuasion) to eschew their guitar driven sound for something dancier and more synth led. Guitar bands have been allowed to get away with this for a little longer in the US, where bands like The Rapture and !!! have been making music you can dance too, no, you can’t NOT dance to, that incorporates house beats, synths and guitars – dance music with roots in indie/rock/punk. Those two bands have turned the endeavour into relative commercial success, not something that’s been done by a UK band until Friendly Fires, who incidentally, were once of the emo / post hardcore persuasion.
It seems to be a good, if unlikely, combination. The soaring vocals of emo (and by gum, Ed Mcfarlane of FF has some blistering vocal chords, as anyone who has seen them live will attest) over bleeps, swathes and beats. This Machine is Off’s machines are on, and Jake Roche provides suitably dramatic vocals to ride over the barage of sound that they make. Fewer steps away from the emo sound than FF (no samba calypso here!) TMIO press a lot of the right buttons. I suppose it’s inevitable, when you press that many.
The thing is, I admit, I grew up a bit of an emo-kid. This was before anyone what one was of course, and when I say emo I mean early Jimmy Eat World, New End Original, Mineral, Sunny Day Real Estate, pretty much any band on Deep Elm… And now I’ve (thankfully) lightened up a bit. So emo that you can dance too? It was never going to go too far wrong for me.
If I had a complaint, it would purely be that the songs are a little sincere. Like many emo vocalists Jake sounds like an angrier Robert Smith trying to conjure the darkness of Ian Curtis. A contemporary comparison would be the vocals in White Lies. Which is all very well, nothing wrong with a bit of melodrama, but lyrics like ‘erase our programs’ sung wrought with all the emotion of the last human of the robot apocalypse, sound incongruous enough over an upbeat track to end up sounding a touch too much.
That said, you can still dance to it. In fact, you can’t NOT dance to it.
PS: I saw TMIO playing before a Hot Chip DJ set, the real reason I was at the Jamm on Friday. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen beers, I can’t remember very much about the new material Hot Chip played except that it was ace.