By RAYNE H. ELLIS It’s been five years since the indie-rock band Electric Guest debuted their first studio album Mondo. And for five years, fans have awaited the arrival of something – anything – new. Plural was the reward for their patience.
The Los Angeles natives made their grand reappearance onto the music scene this Friday, with a 41 minute, 11 track homage to ‘80s pop and ‘90s R&B. But with no unified sound and influences that take us all over the place, the album comes across as a bit unstable.
Plural kicks off with the song “Zero,” a pop twist to the angst-y world of unrequited love and misunderstood men that indie-rock loves. So if you hear this and think this sounds familiar – it should. “Zero” serves as a reminder that falsetto voices and psychedelic beats are what Electric Guest does best.
The album’s first single, “Dear to Me” is the most marketable, yet idiosyncratic song on the album. Featuring HAIM, the rock ‘n roll sisters from California, “Dear to Me” takes an intrinsically ‘80s sound, and modernizes it with the lazy vocals that indie-rock band could almost trademark.
Electric Guest takes a lot of risks with Plural. Throughout the duo switches gears. “Glorious Warrier” introduces a Hall & Oates influence. “Oh Devil” conflates reggae’s drums and ‘90s beats. “My Omen” could have been a track on Cage The Elephant’s Melophobia.
So the production should be applauded. In each song it’s easy to tell what they were trying to do. And however mismatched that may seem, the piece as a whole effectively functions as a representation of the duo’s rediscovered mindset.
A year and a half ago Electric Guest presented their production company with a completely different album, one that vocalist Asa Taccone called “dark” and total “garbage.” So they scrapped most of that project and began again. The only evidence left of that attempt is “Zero” Plural’s introductory track.
But sometimes a little darkness is a good thing. And although the band is not known for being morose, kitschy love songs are not their style either. But even with a great new sound, the lyrics leave the listener floundering for deeper meaning where there is none.
Still the band is proud of their work, Taccone explained to Cyclone, “Both of us feel like this is our first record, in a way…It’s definitely furthering the sound that was established, but it’s much more modern.” Maybe the beats are more modern, but there is nothing groundbreaking about singing “you’re dear to me and I know” seven times in a four-minute song.
The incredible production does not hide enough of the flaws in Plural for it to be considered great.. Expressing so many different styles in one piece doesn’t provide the kind of canvas that lyrics need to come across as stable. Plural’s lovesick theme is tired by track five, and especially when compared to the politically aware Mondo, it’s easy to blame songwriting for the album’s shortcomings.