Squarepusher: Shobaleader One - d’Demonstrator

[1 November 2010]

By Jason Cook

Squarepusher, Squarepusher. I could write a review about a time machine and how, if we had one, we could go and compel Tom Jenkinson to return to writing wonderful things. I could write a bizarre story like The Quietus did. I could copy Pitchfork; I think they got it right. But I’m not here to write stories or review reviews. I’m here, I feel, to be disappointed. I wasn’t fond of the Shobaleader One EP. It wasn’t good. Shobaleader One: d’Demonstrator is no better.

The music we’re given isn’t fundamentally bad. There are playful bass lines, its never-ending vocal pieces sung through some vocoder and harominzed, replete with the least interesting aesthetics that Daft Punk have wondrously given us thus far. I don’t know what Jenkinson is singing half the time. It isn’t soulful; it’s mock-soulful. There are better ways to celebrate your ‘70s funk and R&B albums, just as there are better odes already written. I would have liked to hear this album and find some oddly sewn union of Weather Report and Bon Iver’s “Woods” played like French house, and I half hoped to hear that when I first pressed play. But I’m still confused, still thinking that if I listen to d’Demonstrator again, maybe a bit louder this time, I might hear some frenetic, jazzed-out beat behind the half-melodious shamble I’m given.

I hate to sound so harsh, too. Squarepusher’s first four or six albums are among my top 25, and I imagine they’re among yours. Maybe Do You Know Squarepusher had you a little thrown off, but perhaps when you went back to the album, you liked it. You probably felt this way, for certain, after hearing the proven second disc, Alive in Japan. Recorded July 2001. Then there was a big shift in his style—some pop-worthy experimentation in Hello Everything that startled you. You were still interested. So was I.

Now there’s this: An album whose cover delights me. This Star Wars-esque thing that looks like it could give Daft Punk a wicked virus looks back at me. Who are you, Cover Jawa? You’re not Squarepusher. You’re new, yes. But you’re not like him. You have the virtuosic talent, the ear for production, the great label in Warp. You’re not pop. You’re not R&B or French house. I’m not sure I can dance to your music. Please, Cover Jawa, no more masks. No more bands. We saw your face on Ultravisitor. That was a guy we could trust.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/132713-squarepusher-shobaleader-one-ddemonstrator/