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Wave Machines - Pollen

While the Liverpudlians’ second album is more focused than its predecessor, there’s not as much fun on show.

Wave Machines are magicians – they make the ordinary, extraordinary. On this, their second album, it’s best exemplified by opening number ‘Counting Birds’ and its accompanying video. Tim Bruzon is filmed in blurry black-and-white, reeling off a spoken-word intro in a Milquetoast mumble over the top of a cheap synthesiser. Then everything bursts, like a water balloon full of paint impacting on a concrete slab: Bruzon’s image explodes into a show reel of trippy effects whilst his wonky falsetto soars alongside the titular fowls, and the music becomes a collage of heavy dub bass, staccato rhythms, marimbas…

The follow-up to 2009’s ‘Wave If You’re Really There’ shares its eclectic kitchen sink mentality – in both senses of the phrase, as the sounds that frame their realist lyrics take in everything from weird electronic sounds sprinkled hither and thither, funky bass (‘Ill Fit’), stop-start syncopated drums both live and programmed (especially on ‘Home’, their best song so far, with shades of an LCD Soundsystem ballad in the cold electronics vs warm heart stakes), and stadium rock guitars that go from stadium rock (breathless highlight ‘Blood Will Roll’).

Still, it’s a more focused than their debut, sticking solely with that sort of Guillemots-goes-Fabric – intricate, oblique, expertly played – but that dipping into different sounds (‘Wave…’ had as much effervescent electro-pop as introspective latter-day-Radiohead, as many indie guitars as… well, no guitars) was part of the fun, and it’s missed here.

That said, there’s still not really any other bands around right now that sound like Wave Machines. They’re a These Young Puritans in the daylight, they’re an English TV on The Radio without the paranoia, they’re a post-R&B New Order. They’re not quite any of these things, but they’re as easily as good as those things sound, or possibly even better.

Tags: Wave Machines, Reviews, Album Reviews

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