[21 February 2010]
Let’s be frank: Animal is too much of a latecomer to a scene that no longer bats a lash at the sight of a shiny Kitsune-approved electro unit. Even if it had been released two years prior to 2009—when next-to-kin labelmates Digitalism, Simian Disco Mobile, and the Whip were cutting up dancefloors with its debuts—this maiden full-length offering from London duo David Cox and Russell Crank would have nonetheless sounded unambitious in the scheme of things. Digitalism happily induced tinnitus by wrapping its post-dance punk in a heavy layer of metallic gauze while Simian Disco Mobile delivered bleeding edge hedonism to a ready audience by dropping frivolous one-liners into its strobe-lit aural canvas. The Whip may have had its fate sealed by a lukewarm reception, but its audacious attempts at injecting some Mancunian Rave into Kraftwerk were admirable.
By comparison, AutoKratz, as judged by Animal, portrays a restraint far from being the breath of fresh air bought on by the likes of the xx in a cistern spilling over with prog and psych-pop. It is underwhelming, if not unhinged. Animal is a techno record trying to be New Order, but it tries to do so with a small palette of raw synths and the antiseptic tenor of Cox. It neither displays the vaunted pathos of New Order nor much in the way of sonic experimentation to give the listener something to munch on since the lyrics are nothing much either.
Pity, because the album starts off well enough. The squelchy, bleeping “Always More” could have been a b-side of New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle”, while “Stay the Same” is Justice-style propulsive with an anthemic melodic line. Even the darkly industrial “Speak in Silence” manages to engage even if it is more a dance track looking for a song. For an album with pretentions to electro-pop, the rest of the album sounds like something LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy might have once had as an afterthought. One track melds into another, encouraging mindless attention. As an arbiter of cool, Kitsune seems to have milked the Nu-New Wave dry.