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Chris Lake


(Nervous; US: 5 May 2009; UK: 5 May 2009)

“I pass the main square / This place is way too techno” seems like a throwaway line from Chris Lake’s “Tokyo”, the opening track off his debut long player, but it appropriately describes that particular song’s placation on the album. For too much of Crazy, Lake lingers in the main square, the hegemony of techno, wherein that term stands for what rockist naysayers and philistine luddites peg it as: conventional, utilitarian, mollifying, and indulgent. Chakra for vacationing capitalists. Yet Lake thinks he’s also making a pop album, and we almost believe him. “Tokyo” contains the massive bassline and ecstatic pop sheen of a breakout success. The uncredited female singer’s vocals vie for the throne of alterna-pop goddesses like Annie, Kylie, Robyn, or Soffy O, a confident pop partnership complete with muscular riffage and beats that are not bound to a corpuscular chauvinism.

Contrast this with the lead single “Carry Me Away”, arpeggiated by the same tepid Thorazine-drooling Ibiza dreck that insufferably bland acts like Faithless, Chicane, Darude, late era Oakenfold, or any of the rest of the tripe who inexplicably rose to prominence in the latter half of the previous decade and doesn’t seem poised to leave us anytime soon. It’s the kind of music befitted to bourgeois ideals of elegance that are as at home under the influence of roofless narco-spa nightclubs as they are flattering the background of your cable access PowerPoint presentation. Judging by the strength of “Tokyo”, which would likely enervate any album that followed it (though particularly one as frustratingly de-spirited as this one), Chris Lake is a talented enough producer to not need the four-on-the-floor metronome to guarantee his dancefloor playability. Unfortunately, his players’ vocal strategy is for the voice to dominate just enough to distinguish itself from the square of “pure techno” but never to emerge autonomously enough in the mix to be anything other than an enslaved passenger to the beat. There are hints—the triumphalist synth-pop riff of “Give In”, the Britney-on-the-march vigor of “Crazy”, and the new electro-tech funk Wah of “Words”—that suggest Lake will one day be up to the task, but he’s too busy servicing those for whom “too techno” is a bad thing.


Timothy Gabriele is a writer who studied English and Film at the University of Massachussetts at Amherst. He currently lives in the New Haven, CT region with his family. His column, The Difference Engine, appears regularly at PopMatters. He can be found blogging at 555 Enterprises.

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