Review: IAMX – Kingdom of Welcome Addiction

Our views of albums can be seriously coloured by the expectations game. I think I like the Depeche Mode album in a way I am guessing many mainstream reviewers will not largely because my expectations were not high and they were exceeded. Meanwhile I disliked Goldfrapp’s last album, The Seventh Tree partly because my expectations were sky high following the brilliance that was Supernature. The way we anticipate an album deeply affects how we view said album.

So it is that my lowered expectations for IAMX’s newest effort, due for wide release next month have doubtless played a role in my ultimately quite-high opinion of it.

Talk of the album sounding more “indie rock” and an underwhelming choice of lead-off single (“Think of England”, and after listening the album in its entirety several times I am more curious than ever what led Mr. Corner to choose this dull, underwhelming song to represent the forthcoming album) led me to fear the worst (not that I dislike so-called indie rock, many of my favourite bands fall into the category, but it’s not what IAMX does well by a long stretch; stretch your wings yes, but also play to your strengths). At the same time, the trajectory from the sublime Kiss + Swallow to the confused The Alternative was not a positive one. The former was electronic perfection, the latter wasn’t sure what it wanted to be. Drifting in and out of rock themes, band founder (and sole ongoing member) Chris Corner experimented with traditional instruments and mainstream rock/pop musical patterns that just made the record boring (with notable exceptions, “Heatwave” and the title track). Lackluster songwriting didn’t help.

So when I heard he was working on the third IAMX album I was both excited and felt great trepidation. I knew it could go either way and was leaning toward thinking it was going to continue in the direction he’d been going. 

Instead I am delighted. In a word (or precisely, four words) indie rock, my ass. If I have a complaint, it’s that parts of the album are a little sleepy and drags a fair bit (but a minor quibble, that). But on the flip side, the album is in many respects a return to the roots of Kiss + Swallow. Synths rule the roost once again, but ultimately, that doesn’t matter much what the instrumentation is if the album doesn’t employ emotional resonant song writing and this time around Corner does in spades. While his vocals can sometimes come off as whiney, the mirror image of the whine is the emotion-laden cry and he employs it beautifully (not to mention his lovely falsetto which soars in tracks like “Nature Of Inviting”). The songs here bubble along with gorgeous, sweeping electronic orchestration. The title track opens with tinkled high-note piano keys before launching into a wonderful propulsive power-pop song with relationships-gone-wrong at its heart (as are so many songs in this cycle). Other high points include the duet with Imogen Heap, “My Secret Friend”, which interestingly sounds exactly like an Imogen Heap song, complete with all of her studio affectations, with Corner guest staring, than the other way around). the slightly jazzy mid-tempo “Tear Garden”, and “Nature of Inviting”, with it’s spooky opening bassline reminiscent of Kiss + Swallow. 

Sleazy as ever, the album is soaked in sex and longing, as Corner’s best work always is. With no duds in the mix, and only a few somewhat-underwhelming ballads (“The Stupid, The Proud”) to slow the momentum, IAMX are back with a bang putting together a rock-solid album that strikes all the right chords. It’s among the finest, most resonant electronics albums of the year so far with an overarching, melodramatic, epic feel that makes it stand out from the masses, a class onto itself.

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3 Responses to “Review: IAMX – Kingdom of Welcome Addiction”

  1. Doodledumb Says:

    Heatwave is featured on the Kiss & Swallow album, not The Alternative.

  2. how anyone can class the fantastic “The Alternative” as anything less than amazing i do not know. Same for the new KOWA album which is an obvious progression and sound development that sits fantastically along side The Alternative. GO see him live to really judge how perfectly the tracks sit together and how well the K&S tracks (which were almost a completely different sound and artist) are merged in to the new “Live’ sound – best live act ever, great exploration of new musical themes and soundscapes and some great 80’s feel to leave you jumping around with joy. please visit youtube for the ‘corridor” version of tear garden – simply amazing

    • softsynth Says:

      The Alternative was largely lost on me for the main reason, it didn’t have the qualities that made Kiss + Swallow so freakin’ perfect. To each their own.

      On the issue of KoWA, Softsynth’s impression of it grew and grew (and continues to grow) – see: the “on second thought” recap. I think to date it stands as the album of the year.

      (As to Heatwave, you’re right, I was thinking Nightlife, I always, always get those two tracks and their respective albums mixed up…mea culpa)

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