A year ago, this review of Wrath of Circuits
would have exploded off the page, oozing gooey praise across your keyboard as it begged you to run out and steal as many copies as you could find. A lot has happened since then, though. There's a school of thought that suggests that all CDs should be judged on their own
terms -- regardless of external trends and such -- and in that case, Wrath of Circuits
would receive almost
top marks (well above average, but not quite ready for honor roll). However, it's hard to ignore what's happened in music during the last year. Franz Ferdinand, Hot Hot Heat, The Faint, Q and Not U, The Futureheads and !!!, all of whom have their own unique sound, made extraordinary commercial and critical leaps by soldering '80s dance rhythms to some sort of punk, post-punk, neo-punk, no-wave, or some shit. The Nein, you might have guessed, have performed some similarly crazy musical fusion tricks on Wrath of Circuits
, again involving an irreverent blend of danceables and dissonance. Most of it is pretty interesting, but without the benefit of inspiring a reaction like "I didn't know indie music could do this," it ends up sounding a little bit like the guy at the surprise party who was in the bathroom when the mark walked in -- you were surprised when you saw him pop out of your bathroom, but by then you already knew about the party.
Should a song as sharp and clever as "Conjugated Reverb" be faulted because it was released after Q and Not U's "Wet Work"? We're talking about a very well-written tune. It creeps from a delicate and choppy guitar riff to a full-fledged neon dance party so gradually that if it weren't for the consistent (and wonderfully catchy) vocal melody, you'd no doubt think you were listening to two different tracks. It's damn good, actually. Nevertheless, so was "Caribbean Queen" (maybe), but it's "Billie Jean" that gets all the glory twenty years later. This might be an unfair analogy, as The Nein rock an infinite number of circles around Billy Ocean, but it illustrates an important point about timing. If "Courtesy Bows to New Wave", Wrath of Circuits' strongest and most accessible track, had found its way onto Franz Ferdinand's disc, it might have been a single. Its opening guitar line is irresistible, and the angular drum and bass work is spot on, choosing the path of Sonic Youth instead of Duran Duran, for which you'll be thankful.
The market for this music is only getting bigger and bigger, and there's still plenty of room for a CD as solid as Wrath of Circuits. As with anything, some listeners will already have sickened of seeing the words "dance" and "punk" next to one another -- but for the rest of us, this is an excellent new chapter in one of the young century's most interesting musical trends.