Review: Apoptygma Berzerk – Rocket Science

So, Rocket Science will soon be upon us officially. APB made a sharp left hand turn with their last album, 2006’s You and Me Against the World and there has been much speculation as to whether or not they continue down this new road or if they bring the harder-edged electro back. 

Well, the answer isn’t quite as simple as that. While in terms of attitude and tone it bears a striking resemblance to YAMATW, Stephan Groth and co. occasionally veer in different directions.

This out of the way first, I was a big fan of YAMATW. I liked the balance the band struck and thought they wrote some really solid pop tunes. On the other hand two and a half years later the album has worn thin and other than “In This Together” it hasn’t aged well. Meanwhile I still listen to earlier tracks like “Deep Red”, “Bitch” and “Non-Stop Violence” with great regularity and they still sound fresh. So while I don’t have an opinion in the sellout/cool new direction discussion, score one for the old stuff.

So what about Rocket Science? Well, I take no issue with the instrumentation. They actually manage to use the increased presence of guitars and drums to great effect here and there. So that off the table, what about the material? Lead-off single “Apollo (Live on Your T.V.)” is a great, stomping pop song that gets in your head and sticks there. The guitar riff on “Incompatible” is as tight as a drum and propels a great little rocker of a tune. “Weight of The World” is a nice languid (and over 6 minutes a little too long) droner. And most interesting of all are tracks like “Asleep or Awake” and even more so, the instrumental “Rocket Calculator”, which sound like 1980-81-era O.M.D. And I think that, more than anything is what Groth is trying to do with this album. And sometimes it works. Other times it fails really, almost embarrassingly badly.  

The greatest sin of Rocket Science though is most of it, even the songs that are well structured, and move along like peppy little puppies, is dull. It’s not bad, or offensive, just uneventful. The problem doesn’t lie in the instrumentation, the lack of goth-cred or for any reasons of “selling out”, it lies in the fact that the songwriting breaks no new ground and the production doesn’t bring out anything all that interesting. Groth is still capable of banging out a kick-ass pop song (See: “Apollo”), but all-told, Rocket Science never really gets to fly.

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2 Responses to “Review: Apoptygma Berzerk – Rocket Science”

  1. I couldn’t have said it better myself. This isn’t a BAD album, but it feels rather generic, like it could have been titled “Apop’s New Record.” There are some tracks I immediately hated (“Green Queen,” for example) and some I immediately liked and added to my RFN playlist (“Apollo,” “Shadow,” “Trash”), but by March I don’t think I’ll be listening to any of “Rocket Science” unless it randomly comes up in the shuffle.

  2. OK, to be fair… some tracks are a little light, but tracks like Incompatible and Green Queen have good tight riffs – and Appollo and Weight of the World have good riffs. I think Trash is a poor cover version – particularly when you consider what they did with Cambodia and Shine On.

    I think some will prove to be good stomping live set tracks that the studio hasn’t done justice to.

    I deliberately have tracks like Beatbox (live) on my ipod and I can see some tracks off here being deliberatly put onto my playlists rather than just shuffle.

    And let’s not go forgetting Butterfly Defect – a nod to so many influences from Joy Division to The Cure to Jesus & Mary Chain – if ever a song encapsulated their influences… I’d say it was this.

    There is some genius on here, but you need to persevere.

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