[9 July 2014]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Total Control is a band that emerged out of Australia’s punk scene, but on Typical Systems it shows no allegiance to any one genre. Instead, this is a bracing and dynamic record, as heavy with rock muscle as it is braced by pop nuance. The band is capable of huge moments that feel taut with energy and emotion. “Black Spring” runs seven minutes, but travels on a tightwire hook and deep, echoed vocals that give the song a Cave-esque gravitas. “Flesh War” blips and glides with synthesizers, but guitars and pianos fill out the air sounds while Dan Stewart’s low voice makes the track more shadowed than atmospheric. The album spends a lot of time trying to balance electronic elements with edgier tones, and sometimes the mix is off. “Glass”, with its reliance on light drum programming and thin synth lines, feels slight compared to the rest of the record, as does the industrial blurt of “Hunter”. But even if the album occasionally slips, you’ve still got the lean power of “Expensive Dog” or the careful moods of “The Ferryman”. What becomes clear is that, even when it is uneven, Typical Systems succeeds on good songcraft and—most importantly—heavy and convincing emotional weight. It’s an album that takes a toll, and then invites you back to take it on again.