PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Information Society: _hello world

While this trio may be a product of a certain day and age, it’s nice to hear that they aren't interested in rehashing old glories, necessarily.


Information Society

_hello world

Label: HAKATAK International / MVD
US Release Date: 2014-09-23
UK Release Date: 2014-09-23
Amazon
iTunes

Information Society was, essentially, a one-hit wonder in the late 1980s with “What’s on Your Mind (Pure Energy)”, but the group's debut self-titled disc went platinum and the band was a synth-pop act that was the American counterbalance to European groups such as EMF and Jesus Jones. So they are notable in that regard. To this day, the group reputedly has a loyal fanbase in places such as Brazil, Spain, Japan, and Mexico. So it is with welcome arms for those fans still around that _hello world has come into being, as it is the first InSoc (as the band is known) album in some 20 years to feature all three stable members from the classic late 1980s lineup: Kurt Harland Larson, Paul Robb, and James Cassidy.

How does this record sound? Well, Information Society -- a group that originated in Minneapolis, but moved to New York City once fame beckoned -- is still partying like it’s 1988. However, there is also a contemporary sound to the record, so it is as though the outfit has a foot in a time machine, and a foot in the now. What’s more, this is a surprisingly good disc: the group shows that they have enough gas in reserve for what might be a very welcome comeback. After all, anyone who grew up watching MTV as I did (I’m Canadian, but my parents had a grey-area satellite dish that picked up American channels unavailable north of the border) knows that InSoc had catchy songs that you could move some booty to, as well as colorful videos. While this trio may be a product of a certain day and age, it’s nice to hear that they aren’t interested in rehashing old glories, necessarily.

“The Prize”, in particular, starts out with a robotic voice and synthesized laughter, along with some laser beam gun sounds, before transmuting into a full-on electro track. There’s a hard edge to the song that shows the trio expanding beyond their radio-friendly formula. And I’ll be darned if it just doesn't put a big smile on my face. “Where Were You”, which immediately follows, sound like Depeche Mode around Violator, just with a bigger bite. There’s a toughness to the track, and if you tried to chew it off, you’d probably lose a couple of teeth. “Get Back” is glorious techno, and, had this song come out in the mid-‘90s, you’d be sick of it because every single club on the planet would be playing it. However, and that leads to another point, the group also has its sights on homage, as there’s a cover of Devo’s “Beautiful World” that features guest vocals from that group’s Gerald V. Casale. To be honest, I’m not sure if it really works, as it is a giddy throwback when much of what surrounds it is pretty brutal sonically -- not quite industrial, but not the pretty band we knew circa 1988. It’s also a bit on the silly side, but, then again, the album is also calling out for some levity, so it is, in a sense, a welcome respite from the embrace of subwoofer-rattling synths conveyed earlier on the disc.

There’s also a bit of a misstep in “Jonestown”, which references the 1978 massacre of more than 900 innocent people who were members of the Peoples Temple cult. “How does it feel? / There’s still some life to steal / Down in Jonestown,” is the refrain. While I don’t think Information Society is necessarily making light of the tragedy, and, yes, this event is more than 35 years behind us (which means that we all should just move on already), it’s hard to reconcile the brightness of the music, which is pop-oriented, with the dourness of the lyrical conceit. So, no, I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid here (or Flavor-Aid, look it up -- it was used at Jonestown in possibly bigger quantities than its more famous competitor) by loving this album with an uncritical eye, just letting nostalgia for the sake of nostalgia carry me away. Still, there are nice touches on _hello world, such as the vaguely Indian (as in the country) instrumentation on “Dancing with Strangers”, which also incorporates Aboriginal (as in the indigenous peoples of America) chants after the chorus. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, and shows both a sense of vague irony and careful consideration to crafting two desperate strands together that offer one big play on words. I also love the vinyl-scratching sounds (probably done on keyboards) that wax over “Let It Burn”. There are many subtle pleasures to this album.

This all adds up to make _hello world a rather well constructed reintroduction to the Information Society sound. It’s almost as though they are still as vital as ever by moving forward into uncharted territory, but also allow those simply interested in reliving their youth have a good time -- often within the same breath. These guys are clearly talented, and have, in the past, done things with their albums that have put them on the cutting edge of technology. (Their 1992 disc, Peace and Love, Inc., featured a track consisting of modem tones that, when played into a telephone connected to a computer, revealed a message from the band.) While _hello world doesn't offer such technological tricks, it’s clear that the outfit knows just where they stand in the pop culture landscape. They want to move forward and offer thrills to those interested in the new, but also keep things familiar to those who would rather that InSoc keep pumping out songs such as “What’s on Your Mind (Pure Energy)”.

That’s a hard balancing act, but Information Society do a pretty deft job of it here. While some may scoff and think this is a group best destined for the State Fair revival circuit, you can appreciate the fact that its members have healed whatever rift was between them and are content at marching to the beat of their own drum machine. _hello world is an appreciable re-introduction to a band, especially for those of us who were, unfortunately, merely content to watch their videos on a descrambled satellite channel and not go out and purchase the album they were shilling at the time. Considering the group’s diehard appeal, one can only hope that _hello world broadens the group fanbase to include those of us who sadly missed out the first time around.

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.