Some voices make perfect sense when pitched against the vibrant textures of clubby synth based pop. Think Phil Oakey’s Sheffield brogue that bridged the Motown meets Autobahn melodies of The Human League or Bernard Sumner’s paper thin voice providing fragile humanity in New Order‘s future electro landscapes. Well The The Bad Machines’ Michelle Margherita has one of those perfect pop voices. Caf� cr�me airy, light, a style that is dreamy and wistful but not cloying or emotionless. It’s the perfect fit for the dance pop hybrids that Paul Scott paints in vivid colours.
The duo composed most of the LP by exchange files via email. Paul spends half the year in the sunny streets of Sydney, Michelle tied to the more prosaic surroundings of Brixton. I was worried that the friction that the recording studio can add to the creative process may have resulted in a set of half realised ideas. That’s not the case here at all.
This is the Balearic and blissful, a summery rush of a record. All Ibiza sunrises and windswept romances. It’s the smell of aftersun and cut grass, new sunglasses and Glastonbury comedowns. Think New Order circa Technique, Saint Etienne or Dubstar.
South Coast’s clipped acoustic guitar chords, squelchy porno bass and clubby light beats are the perfect summer cocktail. Add in Air-style synth sweeps and bleeps and you get something close to perfection. Does It Ever Really Happen combines Michelle’s vocals with a pretty chiming keyboard riff and slide guitar. The title track has a clever lyric about self deception (“I didn’t fall for you at all”) and falling in love with the wrong person, set against a baroque melody and half whispered vocals.
Affairs of the heart provide the theme to Folkways. Those perfect speeches and love songs that were practiced for use on lovers that never get heard. “How many lies must we tell before you believe us” Michelle purrs, a harpsichord and a precision bassline framing her vocals.
Unsurprisingly the ghost of Kraftwerk bleeps quietly through Autobahn. Shimmering low mixed choirs, a nagging guitar, electro beats and a wonderful rich bass sound. A sexy tempered sister to The Cardigans‘ My Favourite Game. Mood 2 is like a missing outtake from Portishead‘s Dummy combined with a film noir piano, Hitchcock strings and static hiss.
The album is not an unqualified success. The two rockier tracks just don’t work. The opening Two Heads is the horrid sound of a late night snog between Iggy Pop and Wendy James from Transvision Vamp. Stupid drums, ugly overloaded guitars and vocals that are far to mockney and forced. Kidz is as bad as its title would suggest. A dumb retro rock track containing the worst lyrics on the LP
Why rock out when you can dance? Why scream when your can purr? Why don’t you go and buy this tomorrow?