2003’s Radio Blackout was mercilessly violent and unabashedly catchy, the kind of record Atari Teenage Riot would have made if they had sounded more like the Ramones than Minor Threat. In other words, it managed to be fun without subtracting from the seriously hardcore noise quotient. With Blitzkrieg Pop T. Raumschmiere has taken his lifelong fascination with punk to the next logical extreme, by producing a few actual punk songs.
There really should be a term for electronic artists whose second major-label albums veer sharply from the template of their first. Moby is, of course, the template for this type of frustrating behavior. He followed up his breathtaking 1995 Elektra debut, Everything is Wrong, with a bizarre record called Animal Rights that, with its emphasis on the hardcore punk of Moby’s youth, managed to alienate almost everyone who loved the first disc. Blitzkrieg Pop is by no means as much of a departure from Radio Blackout as Animal Rights was from Everything is Wrong, but it is just different enough that it might be seriously misunderstood by Raumschmiere’s core constituency of techno fiends.
That said, electronic music is usually better off when it tries to replicate the attitude and ethos of punk, as opposed to the songwriting style and rock mannerisms. The aforementioned Atari Teenage Riot owed more of a sonic debt to Aphex Twin and Ministry than the Sex Pistols, but they were able to make their violent noise seem dangerous, political and sensual in way that definitely had more to do with John Lydon than Richard D. James. By trying to ape the spontaneous fury of a live combo, electronic artists often lost sight of their own strengths.
Which might be why tracks such as “Sick Like Me” and “Blitzkrieg Pop”, which feature Raumschmiere’s own vocals and real guitars crunching atop electronic beats, fall so flat. Apparently he has taken to performing live with his own band, but there is little in these sluggish tracks to suggest an auspicious future in the punk world. Quite honestly, he sounds like nothing so much as the Offspring’s Dexter Holland, down to the processed nasal screams.
If the whole album was filled with tracks like those, Blitzkreig Pop would definitely be the worse for it—but thankfully, he was able to limit his punk aspirations to just a few tracks. For every “Sick Like Me” there’s an “All Systems Go!” or “An Army of Watt” that manages to channel the same kind of destructive fervor that made his first singles so glorious. True, there is no Miss Kittin (as there was on “The Game Is Not Over”), but the combination of precise, pummeling techno beats and buzzsaw electronic fuzz is still eminently satisfying.
Speaking of Miss Kittin, Bpitch Control impresario Ellen Allien does her best Kittin impression on “Diving Into Whiskey”, delivering an aggressively deadpan, stridently suggestive vocal performance that mixes well with that track’s shuffling beat and sensual textures. “A Mess” features American singer Quasimodo Jones coming on like a Dexedrine-fueled Dashboard Confessional over a stomping mess of an electro rhythm. Perhaps the album’s oddest track is “A Very Loud Lullaby”, which serves as a tribute to ‘80s stadium rock acts like Pat Benatar and Lita Ford. Former Guano Apes singer Sandra Nasic does an incredible job of replicating some of the cheesier vocal histrionics that defined the performances of the era’s hard rock women.
The album’s most interesting track, however, is “3 Minutes Happiness”, featuring Judith Juillerat. Juillerat, recently signed to Raumschmiere’s own Shitkatapult label, again reminds me of Miss Kittin, even though she appears to have a greater range. It’s a stark and sensual number, played in a comparatively low key and pushed along by a hypnotic house beat. This could easily be a single, and a hot remix or two could turn it into a hit.
Although the album covers a lot of territory, it’s not actually very long. About a third of the tracks are brief instrumentals—interesting, but too short to register much of an impact. That is the problem with much of Blitzkreig Pop—we have a lot of good ideas and a few not-so-good ones, but none of them are developed as fully as one would desire. Most of the songs clock in at under four minutes, which may seem crisp in a pop song, but which seems positively cursory in a techno track. While there are a handful of great songs throughout, the album as a whole seems underdeveloped, which was certainly not a problem with Radio Blackout.