martedì 8 dicembre 2009


When James and Meredith aren't being attacked by mutant rave elements, they lay out their faded quilt of 80s synth pop. No one will be surprised that Figurine have sewn the rinky-dinkness of Depeche Mode's Speak and Spell to the pompous austerity of OMD's Architecture and Morality, with threads of heavily blushed, Dare-era Human League. What's surprising is that the band's lyrics are-- with the charitable exception of the opening song, "International Space Station II"-- woefully banal expositions on relationships not going perfectly. Rather than examining the root causes as to why these fictional relationships have collapsed into disappointment and recrimination, the band scrabbles for $4.99 paperback self-help platitudes and irritatingly weak singing.
The album opener, "International Space Station II," looks to \xB5-Ziq for its otherworldly ambience and to kindergarten for its percussion as James and Meredith discuss their long distance relationship across the solar system. "Impossible" tosses the innovations of the opener away with its fusion of the Euro dance-pop of La Bouche with Visage's synth pads. (And if you were wondering, the Belgian rave sound being dropped into this track is annoying, rather than disquieting.) For "Rewind," Figurine try to emulate Four Tet's Pause. Above picked acoustic guitars and Roland TB-303 squelches and stabs, James sings, "Every single move you make/ Ends up being a big mistake/ You constantly embarrass me/ In front of friends and family." Despite these shortcomings, James thinks that, with a judicious rewind, things could be made right.
Yaz and Depeche Mode founder Vince Clarke should have been given a writing credit for "Our Game," which borrows liberally from Clarke's pioneering, two-finger keyboard style. Unfortunately, Meredith doesn't attempt to emulate Alison Moyet's bluesy power. Instead, as on the rest of The Heartfelt, her voice is paltry and characterless. Figurine redeem the track halfway through, however. Like the old Studio 1 releases that segued from the vocal to the dub version, so does "Our Game" launch into its remix version with glistening glee.
Without lacing The Heartfelt with the anxiety of Fad Gadgett, Lali Puna's pop contortions, or the retro futurist panache of Ladytron, Figurine slump into being just another band who are competent at recreating music to wear too much make-up to. And that, my friends, is frustrating, because I know members of this band are capable of outstanding work. The core of Figurine is Dntel's James Tamborello, whose Life is Full of Possibilities LP is the most creative and provocative statement I've heard this year. But where Life is Full of Possibilities takes risks and subverts, The Heartfelt is simple and unremarkably dour. If this is how Figurine define "heartfelt," they'll learn much from Seventeen's forthcoming article on defeating low self-esteem and underachievement.


  1. "International Space Station II" – 3:48
  2. "IMpossible" – 4:10
  3. "Pswd:stdum" – 1:28
  4. "Rewind" – 4:04
  5. "Way Too Good" – 2:12
  6. "Stranger" – 5:01
  7. "Time" (His mix) – 2:09
  8. "Instrumental" – 4:02
  9. "Pswd:natur" – 1:29
  10. "Our Game (Is Over)" – 6:14
  11. "So Futuristic" – 2:08
  12. "Pswd:pttrn" – 1:27
  13. "Heartfelt" – 5:08
  14. "Let's Make Our Love Song" – 4:20
  15. "[Untitled]" - 2:31

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