Arling & Cameron: Hi-Fi Underground

The po-faced genre-jumbling that is supposed to enliven this record has already been done better, and somewhat fresher, recently.

Arling & Cameron

Hi-Fi Underground

Label: Challenge
US Release Date: 2006-09-12
UK Release Date: 2006-09-12

Five years ago, Amsterdam-based technopranksters Gerry Arling and Richard Cameron were riding in a van on the way to a show when everything changed. The two of them had always been proud of their own artificiality -- they used to call themselves EasyTune -- and their willingness to steal any sound they needed in order to produce robo-cooled pop music. They'd collaborated with everyone from Bebel Gilberto to Pizzicato Five ( the latter on my single favorite album of all time, Happy End of the World), and were touring to support the brand-new album We Are A&C when their van flipped over. In the accident, Cameron broke his back.

It's been a long road back, but I'm glad they've traveled it, because talented Dutch musical pirates are in short supply in the pop landscape. I just wish I liked their album more.

Part of the problem is that a lot has changed since 2001. It's not like Hi-Fi Underground is old-fashioned, exactly; it's more that a lot of the po-faced genre-jumbling that is supposed to enliven this record has already been done better, and somewhat fresher, recently. (Compare: LCD Soundsystem, Gnarls Barkley, etc.) The opening track and first European single, "Shake It", is a straight bumper with a four-four beat stolen from Sly Stone's "Dance to the Music" and lyrics jacked from the Beastie Boys, so it should be perfect, right? But it's strangely subdued, and the energy just doesn't seem to be there. And I don't know why.

This problem persists throughout. The bleeps and beeps are all there, and every little detail seems to be in place, so their main strength is still in place. But very little here pops or stands out. Which is a shame, because that's what the people need from a record like this.

At first, I thought it might be the fact that a lot of these songs have Very Serious Lyrics -- it's understandable, considering the Very Serious Events that have happened to them, but it also waters down the big shiny plasticity that I always loved about them. But then I realized that even a couple of the throwaways were bland. I mean, y'know, even the great idea to bring in Princess Superstar for a silly little song about computers ends up just kinda being a hugely wasted opportunity.

So ultimately, I think it's just the five-year layoff that's made them lose a few miles per hour off their fastball. And there are some encouraging signs. The melodies are still there; "Words" is as pretty as an anime goddess, and the gentle duet with Annika B on "Everything Will Be Alright" is way beyond emotional. "Popcorn 2006" is bubble-gum reggaeton, if you can imagine that. And if you're not really expecting every single track to be glossy fun wacky pop nirvana, the album works really well as driving music and dishwashing music and wine-drinking music. And that's just fine by me.

So while this one didn't really hit the spot for me, I will be eagerly awaiting the next release from these two nutty Netherlanders. And I wouldn't be surprised if I ended up playing this album a lot before the year is out.





Cordelia Strube's 'Misconduct of the Heart' Palpitates with Dysfunction

Cordelia Strube's 11th novel, Misconduct of the Heart, depicts trauma survivors in a form that's compelling but difficult to digest.


Reaching For the Vibe: Sonic Boom Fears for the Planet on 'All Things Being Equal'

Sonic Boom is Peter Kember, a veteran of 1980s indie space rockers Spacemen 3, as well as Spectrum, E.A.R., and a whole bunch of other fascinating stuff. On his first solo album in 30 years, he urges us all to take our foot off the gas pedal.


Old British Films, Boring? Pshaw!

The passage of time tends to make old films more interesting, such as these seven films of the late '40s and '50s from British directors John Boulting, Carol Reed, David Lean, Anthony Kimmins, Charles Frend, Guy Hamilton, and Leslie Norman.


Inventions' 'Continuous Portrait' Blurs the Grandiose and the Intimate

Explosions in the Sky and Eluvium side project, Inventions are best when they are navigating the distinction between modes in real-time on Continuous Portrait.


Willie Jones Blends Country-Trap With Classic Banjo-Picking on "Trainwreck" (premiere)

Country artist Willie Jones' "Trainwreck" is an accessible summertime breakup tune that coolly meshes elements of the genre's past, present, and future.


2011's 'A Different Compilation' and 2014 Album 'The Way' Are a Fitting Full Stop to Buzzcocks Past

In the conclusion of our survey of the post-reformation career of Buzzcocks, PopMatters looks at the final two discs of Cherry Red Records' comprehensive retrospective box-set.


Elysia Crampton Creates an Unsettlingly Immersive Experience with ​'Ocorara 2010'

On Ocorara 2010, producer Elysia Crampton blends deeply meditative drones with "misreadings" of Latinx poets such as Jaime Saenz and Juan Roman Jimenez


Indie Folk's Mt. Joy Believe That Love Will 'Rearrange Us'

Through vibrant imagery and inventive musicality, Rearrange Us showcases Americana band Mt. Joy's growth as individuals and musicians.


"Without Us? There's No Music": An Interview With Raul Midón

Raul Midón discusses the fate of the art in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. "This is going to shake things up in ways that could be very positive. Especially for artists," he says.


The Fall Go Transatlantic with 'Reformation! Post-TLC'

The Fall's Reformation! Post-TLC, originally released in 2007, teams Mark E. Smith with an almost all-American band, who he subsequently fired after a few months, leaving just one record and a few questions behind.


Masaki Kobayashi's 'Kwaidan' Horror Films Are Horrifically Beautiful

The four haunting tales of Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan are human and relatable, as well as impressive at a formal and a technical level.


The Top 10 Thought-Provoking Science Fiction Films

Serious science fiction often takes a backseat to the more pulpy, crowdpleasing genre entries. Here are 10 titles far better than any "dogfight in space" adventure.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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