A plethora of cool sounds and intriguing timbres can't make up for repetitiveness and a lack of decent songwriting.
Throughout the 11 songs that make up Naytronix’s newest effort, Dirty Glow, listeners may find themselves reminded of another album: The Flaming Lips’ utterly brilliant Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Indeed, the two albums share similar qualities, such as soft pop melodies, elegant orchestral flourishes, and interesting electronica/hip-hop foundations. To be fair, though, Yoshimi… is miles beyond Dirty Glow when it comes to songwriting and emotional power, but Naytronix’s sound is still intriguing -- well, for a little while, anyway.
Described as "an evil dance band cloned from the stem cells of multi-instrumentalist/producer Nate Brenner" by Brenner (presumably), Naytronix apparently aims to craft worked designed for "the sinister post-apocalyptic dance colonies that are on the verge of sprouting up around the world." In addition, he describes his sound as "Fashionable grooves [merged] with found sounds and homemade instruments to unsettling yet familiar effect, as humans play side-by-side with robots…" Of course, like just about every press release for a musical endeavor, a lot of this explanation is hyperbolic extravagance written in the hopes of making the music sound more valuable and the artist sound larger-than-life. In reality, Dirty Glow is a fairly unique record that impresses while it plays but leaves very little to remember in the aftermath. It’s a great example of how a ton of style can circumvent the need of substance.
"Hangin’ Out" starts the record off with a lot of grandeur. A funky and fun bass line provides the grounding for electronic melodies that would fit perfectly in a David Lynch film. Finally, Brenner harmonizes with himself nicely, giving the track a dreamy quality. Like most of the album, it sounds nice, but it feels very superficial. Similarly, “In the Summer” conveys the lavish cosmic energy of Super Furry Animals and Gorillaz. The track alternates between an almost standard gospel track and a futuristic instrumental. There’s also a touch of the Fiery Furnaces’ schizophrenic sonic changes, although they aren’t nearly as incredible here.
Surprisingly, "Baby Don’t Walk Away" managers to add a bit of barbershop a cappella to the mix, as well as an admirable level of feeling, while "Lead the Way", with its horns and overdubs, builds to a stunning crescendo. "Nightmare" features delicate, moving harmonies, and "Are You Ready for a Good Time" is arguably the most experimental and diverse track here. It features carnival-esque timbres and the playful warmth of most children’s shows’ theme songs. Finally, album closer "Evil Dancer" is very much inspired by disco; its robotic voices, staccato guitar work, stilted percussion, eccentric directions, and horn accompaniment make it the perfect to play at a vintage skating rink.
Dirty Glow is a bold record in that it maintains fully the unrestricted vision of its creator. Naytronix is definitely an artist whose creativity will either be fully realized or not realized at all -- there can be no compromise. However, while he is remarkable for following his vision to fruition, his sound is not as worthwhile. The songs here all feel a bit too similar, and in the end, all the bells and whistles in the world can’t make up for a lack of decent songwriting. Dirty Glow is fine for parties and the like, but it really won’t satisfy anyone looking for a more introspective, serious experience.