Commercial dubstep for listeners with more interest in Basshunter than Burial.
Lou Thomas 2011
Since their feted 2009 remix of The Streets’ Blinded by the Lights, London dance duo Nero have built themselves a steady reputation as producers operating at the commercial end of dubstep and drum’n’bass. Now, some six years after their first release, the pair of Daniel Stephens and Joe Ray have finally realised their own album. The time, therefore, is right to evaluate where they stand amongst the genuine stars and almost-there also-rans of their assigned genre.
And the verdict? Judging by Welcome Reality, Nero’s work is more likely to be heard alongside the rest of the chart-dance canon on commercial radio, rather than stations like Rinse or at scene-driving club nights like the capital’s ever-influential FWD>>. On one hand, this is no bad thing – only the worst kind of snob equates commercial success with lesser-quality material. But there are times here where the sheer mindlessness of Nero’s music makes Pendulum sound like Squarepusher.
Doomsday, for example, rumbles away like a forgotten hard house tune crossed with a facsimile of The Prodigy’s Breathe. Elsewhere, there’s My Eyes – My Ears (And What Are They Doing to Them?) might have been a better title – features synth sounds probably last used by a 1980s keytar-wielding Eurovision hopeful. Breakthrough track Me and You, which topped the UK Indie Chart in January 2011, includes a riff that apes The Human League’s Love Action, but still suffers from the bombastic beats and hammered keys present everywhere else.
But Welcome Reality isn’t purely one-dimensional, and is saved by glimpses of the talent that’s guided the pivotal pair this far. Their first number one single, Promises, includes a La Roux-like vocal from regular collaborator turned third member proper Alana Watson, and is sensible enough to highlight instant-hit catchiness amidst the trademark (and somewhat tired) wobbles. Fugue State, meanwhile, is a valiant attempt at creating the sort of towering electro-house that French duo Justice are known to churn out. It’s a slice of variety that, alas, is served up all too rarely.
Welcome Reality lacks the finesse and creativity being made at the more interesting end of dance music in 2011 – by the likes of SBTRKT, for example. Ultimately, despite its makers’ impressive credentials, this debut long-player is destined for the homes of listeners with more Basshunter in their collection than Burial.