When nu-rave kings Klaxons eventually decided to call it a day in 2014, following the lukewarm reception of actually-pretty-decent third LP ‘Love Frequency’ and a slightly baffling tour gimmick where they attempted to 3D print all their instruments, it was with the sense that the glitter-coated sonic explorers had faded away rather than burnt out. Formerly the torch bearers of their scene, the group had never fully managed the transition into Phase II and yet the world had moved forward around them regardless.
In the interim period, keyboardist James Righton has been more of a fixture in the Metro’s ‘Spotted’ column alongside famous wifey Keira Knightley than he has on Radio One, but now with solo project Shock Machine, he’s Righton time (sorry) to redress the balance.
Thing is, and it’s not that he’s not trying to switch things up here – the influence of Tame Impala on opener ‘Open Up The Sky’ or LCD Soundsystem in ‘New York I Love You’-esque closer ‘Something More’ are more than apparent. But the shadow of his previous band looms so heavy over the space age synths and shimmery pop hooks of Shock Machine that it doesn’t ever really feel like something new.
‘Unlimited Love’s hands-aloft chorus could easily slot alongside ‘Love Frequency’s ‘There Is No Other Time’, while eponymous title track ‘Shock Machine’ is a dappled futuristic odyssey that’ll satisfy the Klaxons mourners for a little while longer. Maybe it’s even just that, on the likes of ‘First Of May’ and ‘Fire In My Heart’, the falsetto backing vocals give the impression that he’s roped in Jamie Reynolds for a hand. But even when James borrows the keyboard part from OMD classic ‘Enola Gay’ on ‘Strange Waves’ it’s not the only thing that feels familiar.
When you’ve been involved in a genuinely original, scene-starting band, it’s no easy thing to emerge from its bubble as a new entity. And fuck it, maybe it doesn’t even really matter if you can’t, so long as you can match the quality level. But at the moment, Shock Machine aren’t quite there. Less MDMA-zing, more just… coke-ay?