Madonna collaborator Stuart Price returns with his electro group.
Tom Hocknell 2009-10-01
In response to no public demand, Madonna’s recent co-writer and The Killers’ producer/remixer Stuart Price returns as part of his group, last seen in 2003, to reclaim the crown they never owned from wonky-haired electro-females. And Lady Gaga.
Zoot Woman had their moments, particularly on the occasionally sublime debut album, Living in a Magazine. This third album eschews the blue-eyed pop-soul of that record in favour of exhuming the bones of electro-clash (if ever the dead should be left in peace…) and, of course, the 80s.
Surprisingly, considering Price’s phone contacts, there are no guest spots. Admittedly few could have added to the pointless, drill-looking-for-a-wall grind of Lust Forever, but elsewhere they may have helped.
As with the best electronica, the plaintive vocals sit comfortably over chirpily driven backdrops, but to varying effect. The frantic synths of Lonely by Your Side work with seasoned proficiency and although the lack of harmonies, such as on Witness, can make for gruelling listening, they will not disappoint fans of Depeche Mode’s more industrial moments.
It is impossible to talk about this album without mentioning its influences, as if they were any clearer it’d be wearing a sandwich board. We Won’t Break has a pining bass à la New Order, with whom Price also worked. As a remixer he has unavoidably picked up tricks, most evidently on the single Saturation which shares such similarities with The Killers’ Smile Like You Mean It. It is one of a handful of excellent tracks here.
But Things… suffers from being too knowing, its makers needing to relax a little more – at no point does it sound like they’re having as much fun as they should to warrant a comeback, and this patchy album perhaps follows modern 80s influences too closely. It remains platitudinal electro, serving at best to provoke investigation of their back catalogue.