[27 August 2008]
Sao Paulo, Brazil’s Telepathique is a dance duo who seem equally inclined to rock out and to make your booty shake. Mylene Pires provides the vocals and the attitude, while DJ/drummer Erico Theobaldo provides everything else. Originally released in South America in 2006, their debut album Last Time on Earth is now making its way to North America. The disc is a mixture of several different dance styles, with a base in electro and pop/rock. Unfortunately, these mixtures only succeed about half of the time.
Pires has a solid singing voice, but she spends the bulk of the album doing breathy speak-singing or whispering. The few times she gets to really sing, it’s very effective. But for much of the rest of the time, her vocals tends to sound monotone and stripped of emotion. Theobaldo can’t resist messing with vocoder and other effects to make her sound even more robotic at times.
Last Time on Earth works best when the songs have a solid, catchy dance hook or a strong pop idea. The mid-album combo of “Telefunk” and “Kabalah” illustrate Telepathique’s biggest weaknesses. As grooving tracks intended for the dancefloor, the pair of songs make for 11-and-a-half minutes of solid beats. But as musical compositions, they’re repetitive and boring. The hook in “Telefunk” has worn out its welcome by about two minutes into the song, but the track drags on for 6:30 before sliding into “Kabalah.” A vocal vamp and keyboard solo both pop up in the final minute, but neither are particularly interesting and they show up far too late to rescue the song. The keyboard line goes on to become a hook for “Kabalah”, which has a mildly catchy vocal line and even a distorted guitar solo. Once again, though, none of these elements are enough to sustain interest in the song for the 5:04 it lasts. The album’s penultimate track, “Wild”, suffers in similar fashion. It sounds like a mid-tempo chill-out tune with pulsing electro sound effects, but there isn’t much of a hook to it at all, there are no vocals, and it goes on for nearly eight minutes. On the other side of the spectrum, “Love and Lust” manages to become repetitive in under three minutes. It’s basically a pop tune driven by the spoken chorus “Love came fast and took my baby / Lust came here and ate my candy”, which is repeated about 15 times and quickly morphs from a catchy phrase to a very annoying one.
But there are songs on the album that succeed, and succeed wildly. Opener “Deja Vu” lets Pires sing out, and Theobaldo pairs her vocals with a succession of cool sounds. There are several different crunchy guitars swirling through the song and the underlying percussion changes back and forth between straight rock and jungle beats. Lead single “I’m Not the Man” finds Pires taking on the persona of an arrogant creep trying to pick up a woman. It’s bracing and clever to have a sexy-sounding woman take on this role, and Theobaldo keeps the song interesting with solid sonic choices and a groove that changes subtly throughout the piece. Then there’s “Sex and Drugs and Funk ‘n’ Roll”, probably the highlight of the album. It opens with a choppy guitar riff, adds a catchy bass complement, and harmonizes Pires with herself on the ultra-catchy chorus and throughout the song. There are also spoken word sections peppered throughout the tune in both Portugese and English, and Theobaldo manages to keep the fun going through the full six minutes, even though the vocals end about four minutes in.
It’s difficult to merge pop sensibilities with club-oriented tracks, and Telepathique struggle with this throughout Last Time on Earth. The songs that work, though, are great. If the band figures out how to strike that balance all of the time then they may go on to do fantastic things. But for right now they’re sort of stuck in between, and that only makes for a mildly listenable album.