Review: Electric President – The Violent Blue

In many ways this may be the most out-of-place review Softsynth has yet proffered. Electric President have historically fit snugly into a category we have christened “hybrid” bands – those that are neither purely electronic nor organic but occupy a happy place in the middle. And they are legion, ranging from the manipulative opaque chart cynicism of Owl City to the pure alternative artistry of Mobius Band, bands that crack out the guitars but which are guided by electronic percussion and synths which light the way for their songs.

Many have taken issue with the broad perameters Softsynth uses to define electronic music and let us just revisit this debate briefly once more. Bottom line – what matters is the defining characteristic of a band. That sound which one can point to and say, this, THIS, is what this band really is at its core. It’s not about how many keyboards a band uses or if they deign to play a live drum kit, it’s about what sound is the very essence of a band (which is why the likes of Britney Spears can produce an album or two heavy on the synths but devoid of electronic definition the way a Lady GaGa embraces the pure electronic ethic in her music).

So: Electric President. They get a review here for two main reasons – they have long been one of Softsynth’s dependable favourites and they have a proud history as a hybrid band with a foot firmly in the electronic music camp.

Until now.

The Violent Blue is the most this band have lurched in a particular direction. Their genius lies in their sense of balance. Their hipster alterna-guitar band mixed with the…well, the hipster electronic act. It works beautifully when their stars are aligned. For the most part, though, those stars are unaligned on this album. Too much of the album, to paraphrase their song “Eat Shit and Die” feels tossed off. The emotional depth, not to mention the electronic glaze that coats their best material achieved on their previous albums is too often missing here. There are of course, notable exceptions. The aforementioned “Eat Shit and Die” is actually a nice blend of performed guitar, bass and drums with shivering synths with some nice, thoughtful lyrics: “cash your karma in/ ’cause you’re never going to be like them/ no matter how.

Other stand outs are, interestingly, those songs that feature the electronic side of the band more prominently, more boldly. And as on their last album, Sleep Well, those standouts usually come when the band slow things down to a lethargic crawl. Songs like “Circles”, “Mr. Gone” and “The Violent Blue” – on these songs Electric President once again transcend the typical alternative guitar band crutches. They have it in them to be something so much more and when they truly let their hybrid flag fly they occasionally graze greatness. Others songs like the clap-along “Safe and Sound” show the potential for fun, complete with uplifting feel-good lyrics but the are the exception here.

If the band commit any major crime it’s that they too often let their material feel dull. The sleepier the band, the more they have to guard against boredom and Electric President, for the first time in their short but stories recording career, touch boredom. Songs like  “Elegant Disasters”, “Nightmare No. 5 or 6” or the excruciatingly dull “Feathers” and bring no inspiration, nor any sense of fun or light to the party and they drag this album below a point any Electric President album has any business being.

It’s a missed opportunity as we don’t get new material from the band nearly often enough but when we catch a glimpse of them at their best, like on the glorious, sweeping title track, we are reminded they are capable of much much more. It gives us much hope that the future will hold more greatness from this sometimes-great band.

Watch: The Violent Blue

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2 Responses to “Review: Electric President – The Violent Blue”

  1. “The emotional depth, not to mention the electronic glaze that coats their best material achieved on their previous albums is too often missing here” – word! 😉

  2. Very sad. The lyrics of the singer ‘re not to hear, apparently… Like the music by the way. So much for Absurd Minds and their EBM full of “clichés”!!! [hahahaha]

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