Tuesday, 9 February 2010
Album Review: HADOUKEN! - For The Masses (EMI)
Brave move, that album title. Evidently, there's something for everyone within this opus, unlike the riot that was their debut Music for an Accelerated Culture - a rabid mix of rave, grime, rock, rap, digi-synth pop, more rave etc - that likely had anyone over the age of thirty running a mile. A Technicolour attack of all the most exciting bits of electronic music from the last three decades, and with all the songwriting nous to apply it to. If anyone had enough in the armoury to burn the tag line "difficult second album", it's this lot.
Things certainly start off well enough on opener Rebirth, including an opening segment that wouldn't be out of place on a Sisters of Mercy album! This bodes well as a sign that the band are continuing to evolve, but the album slowly reveals that this isn't the case. The band do sound bigger, bolder, more confident, but they appear to have lost that vibrancy and excitement that made the first album such a rush to listen to. It feels like the band are recognising the need to "mature"and not playing to their strengths in doing so. While the '90s-rave-inspired beat and lyrical method change slightly on each track, the dynamics does not. Tracks such as Turn The Lights Out and Mic Check contain their own build-ups and path to a killer climax, but they don't happen. It's as the album continues that you realise the biggest crime is a lack of hooks and memorable choruses. Evil does do the latter but the rest of the track suffers from the sins mentioned earlier.
It's only towards the end of the album that things take an obvious turn for the better. Bombshock serves up a molotov mix of aggressive rapping, grimy guitars and a core drum loop that reassures you that they can still do what they do best, but it also feels like the track's superiority is exaggerated by what came before. Play The Night manages to combine all their good points to an epic feel while closer Lost is a lesson in how to do atmospheric rave. It's reassuring, but as far as the album is concerned, a bit too late.
There's no denying that Hadouken! are growing up and evolving - an obvious sign is that most tracks don't seem to be inspired by a different episode of "Skins", but it does seem to have come with a price. No-one wants a repeat of the first album, especially if you're closer to 30 than 20, but the core strengths of that killer debut seem to have been forgotten. The third album will certainly be the decider.