Not so long ago, So So Modern were oh so modern. They were one of those bands whose guitars could be worn no higher without being considered nose jewellery. Dance beats were the order of the day, and guitars weren’t riffed on exactly – they were used like calculators, with their operator’s fingers dancing over the fretboard like meth-crazed spiders. The resulting noise approximated the frantic congress between post-punk and nu-rave.
Anyway, So So Modern were a part of that math-dance scene and, alongside Foals, were the band most likely to do something. They were a fantastic live proposition, they had a couple of great singles to their name and, let’s not forget, they were signed to the rather trendy Transgressive label. Yet despite all this early promise, they are only just getting around to releasing their first album (the EP and singles compilation Friends and Fires not withstanding). It turns out they preferred to trade on their live reputation.
As a result, Crude Futures is an album whose sound is very much of its time, and that time was around two years ago. This of course shouldn’t matter; good music should transcend time and place. If it is good, then there should be something here that resonates.
Songs like Be Anywhere don’t really resonate. Clever and surprisingly moody it may well be, but it is somewhat cumbersome. There was plenty of frugging to the sound of this jerky punked-up funk a couple of years ago, but with attention spans getting shorter, it’s arguable that Be Anywhere would be lucky to raise much more than a yawn.
But band soldier on, and when they reach Berlin, things start to look up. A relentless keyboard figure – presumably stolen from Kraftwerk’s laptop when the German electro-fiends stopped on the autobahn to give Holy Fuck a lift – provides the centre around which all guitar stabs and electronic yelps revolve. It never reaches a BPM capable of melting a dancefloor, but the laid back groove is irresistible. Taking such a massive step away from the math-rock sound suddenly places the band in killer territory.
Yet Dendrons storms back into that math-rock territory and, with a charged stomp that flings fists and runs, it is the sound of a band fired up. The precise drumming, overdriven guitars, impassioned vocals (which sound like Perry Farrell) and clean production give the band a natural sound – not one that sounds like it has been created thanks to a blueprint and a gang of mathematicians.
Dusk And Children suggests that the band might have been influenced by a spot of post-rock. A gentle song at odds with everything else here, it builds slowly and is relatively delicate compared with the rest of the album. It suggests a band with soul, at the very least.
But such moments are too few and far between. At times the band get self-indulgent. Whether they’re getting lost in meandering drone sequences, or overly ornate rhythmic breaks, it is often difficult to join them on their musical odyssey. At least they’re attempting to move their sound forward, despite sounding dated at times, and the likes of Dendrons suggest a band that is ultimately still a blast in a live setting.