I’m guessing that if you’ve navigated to this site you probably consider yourself an avid fan of indie rock. Generally, most of us indie rock listeners consider our music tastes to be a “cut above” the mainstream (although these days, with every promotional deal bands sign with corporations the “indie” moniker is getting a little ridiculous). But sometimes, don’t you just get the urge to indulge in some shameless feel good unabashed “dirty pop,” as Justin Timberlake and his cohorts once put it?
This is probably how Pop Levi felt when he first broke onto the UK scene as a solo artist (you should see some of his flamboyant videos-this guy really does indulge!), up until that point having only really been involved with UK rock band Ladytron as a bassist-hanging on the fringes of electro rock but probably dying to just bust loose. So after putting out his solo debut The Return to Form Magick Black Party last year, he was able to garner rave reviews from such outlets as the BBC and the UK publication The Guardian. Anticipation for this new record is probably high. Does his new record make the cut?
I haven’t listened to the debut album, but I decided to check out the new record that saw release in the UK last week (and will be released in the US in September). It’s actually a pretty catchy set of songs that feature the artist experimenting around with attempts at melding different sounds and genres together. As stated, Pop Levi was working with an electro-rock band and he’s done a bunch of remix work for other artists and on various seven inches and compilations-again, all catering to the electro-rock crowd.
So it’s pretty interesting to see the musical journey he takes on his own release. In “Wannamama,” he seems to give birth to a mashup of rockabilly and techno that I like to call “technobilly.” In “Semi-Babe,” where he sings about a girl who has “37 numbers on her phone,” he starts off with a relatively soothing acoustic guitar riff that quickly becomes mixed up with some synthesized drums and some other loops. In “Oh God (What Can I Do)?” the song kicks off with a pretty “typical indie rock” instrumental but by the end of the song it’s devolved into another repetitive techno like sound. His voice is also a real asset, as in another life he might have considered pursuing a career in R&B.
But actually this is exactly where some of the downsides of the album arise. Like I said, his voice is very suited for R&B like ballads, and he ends up sounding almost exactly like a Justin Timberlake wannabe when he attempts to try this sort of nonsense. It also leads to corny lines galore, such as “Some people call me operator” and an attempted mockery of modern-day obsession with social networking by calling a track “Mai’s Space” that ends up backfiring into something that’s easy to mock itself.
The worst offense in my book is the over-use of Autotune. This may be a contentious point for many, but I think this vocal modification technique is OK when it becomes very, very clear to the listener that it’s being used (a la Cher in “Believe.”). But in this album, like with many other recent albums, producers attempt to use it to try to make the singer’s voice slicker and more “in tune,” which can be a pretty seamless process if done right. In this case, it just doesn’t work-even though it looks like Pop Levi makes a serious effort to try and mask the usage of this technique, it’s pretty glaring in the title track. I would have rather he just come out and be blatant about the usage-it actually might have helped the sound. But trying to use Autoharp and then passing off an altered voice as the artist’s real voice is just being dishonest.
In any case, Pop Levi does a good job on his second album, threatening to go in a number of different directions but ultimately plays it safe and sticks to the confines (and time-honored tricks) of electro-rock.
“Never Never Love”
Never Never Love is due out September 2 via Counter Records…