Nonsense In The Dark – Filthy Dukes

5 stars (out of 5)

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filthy-dukes-nonsenseAlbums by DJs; you just don’t know what you’re going to get.  It can be the same idea recycled a dozen times or no ideas spread across a dozen genres.  Happily, this collection defies the stereotypes by giving us a really eclectic bunch of tunes absolutely packed with great ideas.  The concept is really simple – throw in every analogue synth you can get your hands on, use the mixing desk used by legendary Kraftwerk producer Conny Plank in the 70s and use every singer who ever went  near the “Kill ‘Em All” club night.

As you would expect, there are obvious Kraftwerk influences but there are also references to early ‘80s pre-New Romantic British synth pop.  You can pick out early Human League, the melancholy side of Japan (remember them?) and the pop sensibility of Orchestral Manoeuvres  in the Dark as well as many others too obscure to mention.

The highlights?  Well, I don’t think there’s a bad track on this album, but there are a few great standout songs.  Two of these have already been released as singles;  the opening track “This Rhythm” and “Tupac Robot Club Rock”.  “This Rhythm” is a great four-to-the-floor dance track with big beats and dirty analogue synth sounds creating the pulse under the minimalist vocal, but the real beast of the album is “Tupac Robot Club Rock”.  Imagine Adam F meets “Seven Nation Army” on steroids and you’re about halfway there; absolutely barmy and absolutely brilliant, with references ranging from classical mythology to “Mad Max”.
The real surprise is “Messages” with a Tommy Sparks guest vocal.  This is a perfect pop tune with ridiculously catchy synth hooks underpinning an infectious melody and hedonistic lyrics which has to be a single at some stage (although there are probably another 3 singles on the album).  The album’s worthwhile for this one alone.

And those are just the highlights.  There’s also strength (and variety) in depth with the melancholy themes and baritone vocals of “Don’t Fall Softly” and “Poison The Ivy” (echoes of early Human League again?) and the album’s closer “Somewhere At Sea” featuring the plaintive tenor vocal of Mauro Remiddi. 

How often do you find an album that you can listen to start to finish without pressing the skip button at some stage? Not very often in my case but this is one of those rare beasts – there isn’t a track here that I don’t want to hear to the end every time I listen to the album.

As an album by an established artist this would be exceptional but, as a debut, it’s brilliant.  As chart dance music becomes increasingly predictable it’s refreshing to hear music that’s created using the same techniques but with creativity and originality.  We’re not even halfway through 2009 yet, but this a strong favourite for my album of the year and there’s so much variety that if you don’t like any given track, then there’s one coming along in a few minutes that you’ll love.