Electric Guest, known to their mums as Asa Taccone and Matthew Compton, met and formed in Los Angeles, and there is a hint of that California soul, spirit and adventure running through the veins of Mondo, their debut album. It bustles with a light hearted optimism, fusing musical genres and influences. It only fails in that its broad pallete means when Mondo is good, it can be very good. When it fails to hit the mark however, it’s pretty average fare.
Mondo is equal parts synth pop and R&B with a bit of funk and psychedelica thrown in for good measure. The closest comparison would be Air if they were infiltrated by a jazz-funk covers band with a penchant for sugary pop. The little flurries of pure R&B moments are the highlights, especially Taccone’s vocals and the synth experimentation on some tracks. Yet despite these moments, Mondo is spoiled in parts by a mash up of cheery, bass line driven pop that tries too hard to be all things to all listeners.
Opener Awake shows off all of Electric Guest’s repertoire. It starts with a simple funky bass line driving into a chorus before breaking down into acoustic guitar, wobbly synths and a spaced out and low key last minute or so. So far, so interesting.
Disappointingly, The Bait then shows us a good example of when pop goes bland. It has a Soft Cell inspired bass line straight from the ’80s, a cheesy chorus only redeemed by Taccone’s smooth-as-syrup vocals and comes and goes in three slightly pedestrian minutes without being instantly memorable – something required in the essence of a good pop song. Likewise, Waves is a bit too chipper for its own good, racing along with high pitched vocals and more handclaps.
Yet it works when the R&B influences take over and Electric Guest keep it simple. This Heat I Hold is tinkling pianos, snare drums and handclaps under smooth vocals, while Under The Gun has Taccone in full soul man mode as various synth effects combine behind him.
Likewise, at the other end of the spectrum, Mondo has some great moments when Electric Guest slow things down. American Day Dream has a hypnotic quality, hints of producer Danger Mouse‘s influence in the dreamy backdrop whilst Control has a touch of the psychedelic about it. Amber has wonderful synth over the chorus and floats along free of the stickiness of forced pop that invades much of the album.
Mondo tells us that Electric Guest have yet to work out exactly what they are best at. On the evidence here, that is simple, unaffected R&B influenced pop, infectious without trying too hard to be, with an interesting sideline in psychedelic synths.