On Beautiful Future, the customarily angsty and vaguely paranoidpolitical rhetoric of Bobby Gillespie’s lyrics is married to aselection of retro sounds which push the ‘upbeat’ button more oftenthan, say, anything on 1999 album XTRMNTR. Presumably the plan is toinfuse a little piquant invective – as Ben Elton put it, “aliddle bit o’ politics” – into the brains of factory workers, officedrones and old grey men whistling along to the radio. Then, rise up,smash the oppressors, seize nirvana; a beautiful future indeed.
Except that it’s difficult to get over the prescriptive nature ofsuch an idea and find much soul behind it. What happened to truth, andbeauty, and creating art from the heart? And anyway, isn’t it a littlepatronising to assume that we’re somatised automatons, waiting for therock god to lead us out of the shadows?
Bobby G is in danger ofturning into one of those grumpy, manipulative, rich old white men heso despises – although obviously with nattier clothes and a betterhaircut. Mind you, it’s also possible to read the sentiments as beingdirected by Gillespie at Gillespie, as a form of self-chastisementresulting from his status as part of the rock establishment. It’sunnecessarily charitable to believe he wants listeners to rise up andcut him down, however.
There’s no doubt the band are committed to looking like they havetheir finger on the pulse, with Björn Yttling, of Scandi whistlersPeter Bjorn and John, and Bloc Party knob-twiddler PaulEpworth, producing. CSS‘s pretty vacant fashion idol singerLovefoxxx hisses in the background on I Love To Hurt (You Love To BeHurt), and in what is possibly an odd nod to Guilty Pleasures, a coverof Fleetwood Mac‘s Over And Over involving LindaThompson (folk! It’s well hip, Bobby!) features.
Opener Beautiful Future clangs bells, choruses oh-oh, and stabssimply at a jolly, repetitive piano melody while Gillespie lectureswith “you’re only free to buy the things you can afford.” Worryingly,Uptown adopts a walking-pace rhythm that’s no doubt influenced by thevogue for rediscovering the ’80s – yet here, the step is closer toScottish cohorts Texas.
Subtlety is at a premium too, with Zombie Manconforming to the Scream’s blueprint for the ugly RollingStones-y blues-rocker (think Give Out But Don’t Give Up, ratherthan Riot City Blues). Gillespie’s love of the band Suicide iswell documented, and I Love To Hurt pulses with the fastpss-tsh-pss-tsh rhythm Alan Vega’s group made their trademark.
Clich�d rawk guitar lines – guest twanger Josh Homme, consideryourself suitably chastised – on Necro Hex Blues; washy synths onCan’t Go Back; crass lyrics on Suicide Bomb (“Black hair, dress sotight/If looks could kill”) mean it’s surprising that the record haslegs enough to stand, but a honed sense of professionalism, one thatcombines the themes of the band’s eight previous studio albums, savesthe ensemble. The inclusion of a second, single version of The GloryOf Love is certainly unnecessary, but may shift a few copies of saidsingle. Music that pays the mortgage is hardly rock ‘n’ roll, though,is it?