Review Summary: Outstanding debut that brings to mind 65daysofstatic crossed with Squarepusher/Pendulum. Turn this electro-rock up loud and get ready to move.
Innerpartysystem - whose name is loosely derived from the Orwellian classic 1984
(Oceania's three social classes in its hierarchy were the Inner Party, Outer Party, and Proles, but the point is, if you haven't read it yet, you should) - were among the best acts at Lollapalooza 2008. As the Pennsylvania quartet's forty-five minute set progressed, the crowds started to flock to the BMI Stage in ever-increasing numbers. Drummer Jared Piccone was thrashing about with reckless abandon on his drumkit, raucous, rambunctious electronics squealed and chirped consistently, and keyboardist Jesse Cronan was moving about onstage with PerformAir-like tendencies. Such onstage theatrics helped enliven the crowd (who, by the set's conclusion, had greeted the band with an awesome response after a slew of expected "Who are
these guys?" remarks upon recognition that a band was indeed playing onstage) but the band's electronic-infused sound helped pull those Lollapaloozers even closer to their set. As those initial passersby stopped and soaked in the rest of the set, the soaring guitars and synthesizers, emotive vocals, and all the electronic blips, bloops, and bleeps that characterize Innerpartysystem's sound started to forge unforgettable memories.
And so describes Innerpartysystem's stellar self-titled debut record. The band has been called by its management "Nine Inch Nails
meets The Chemical Brothers
," but that's not very close (no offense, Sarah Lewitinn, even if your job's better ). A more representative comparison is "65daysofstatic
." Obviously, you have to forgo the fact that neither of the aforementioned predominantly feature vocals, but Innerpartysystem's are much more melodic and euphonic (they are neither as aggressive as Ministry
nor as celestial as Skinny Puppy
, but are more akin to Rob Swire of Pendulum
). Thus, Innerpartysystem's "electro-rock" tag is justified: vocalist Patrick Nissley's illuminating vocals add a brilliant dimension to the band's core electronic foundation.
The foursome collaborate in a refreshing multitude of ways, but mostly start with guitarist Kris Barman writing some simple beats on his synthesizer. From there, he writes a matching guitar progression to flesh out the sound a bit more; simultaneously, Cronan (the Skydancer-esque onstage mover-and-shaker) and Piccone serve as an electronic rhythm section. This goes without saying, but all things considered, the bass plays an absolutely crucial element for Innerpartysystem. From there, vocalist Patrick Nissley, whose music career began singing in various East Coast emo acts, rounds everything out into crisp passages. All are responsible for Innerpartysystem
's programming, and it is wholly impressive how each member contributes texture, perspective, and instrumentation to make the record blossom further.
While waiting for the promo for this record, it was worrisome at the onset that Innerpartysystem may not be able to translate their live sound onto record without losing their luster and gusto. Fortunately, this is not the case, as each cut on Innerpartysystem
exhibits its own easily-distinguishable identity. Take for instance lead single "Don't Stop," whose static-laden intro and thunderous bass booms give way to a captivating electronic "main riff." Nissley's jeering social commentary - discussing how people over-glamorize celebrities by setting them on an unreachable pedestal - sets the record's contemptuous tone: "The road I walk is paved in gold to glorify my platinum soul," begins Nissley, before finishing the opening lines with, "I'll buy my way to talk to God so He can live with what I'm not." The song's lyrical highlight, though, is found in the prechorus: "I gave up everything for fame / I am the lie that you adore: I feed the rich and fuck
the poor!" His emphatic accentuations are of particular note here and in the song's bridge, where the electronics taper off until a small crescendo builds to the final chorus. The outro's double bass, frenzied electronics, and thunderclap bass swells make for a gripping listen. If anything, the main electronic riff is worth listening to alone.
Follow-up single "Die Tonight, Live Forever" features an equally-danceable electronic backbone and more mechanized vocals. The pulsing, throbbing dives and swells alternate masterfully with Nissley's juxtaposted vocals, and the anthemic "If we all should die tonight, we will have no regrets" and "If we should die tonight, we've got nothing left" lines that repeat numerous times as the song's chorus are immensely catchy. While all this is taking place, the synthesizers and keyboards swirl, making the listener feel like he or she has been transplanted at a Halloween dance party held in an abandoned factory. "Everyone is the Same" starts weakly but finishes impressively with the keys emanating a warm, tingling sensation that's complemented nicely by the other strong instrumentation. "They say the war is over / I say it's just the start / We have been fighting for so long / To hide the way we are" muses Nissley as the song drops to a dancefloor-shattering pulse.
Another album highlight is "Heart of Fire," which highlights Nissley's foray into narrating stories of love gained and lost. "Heart of Fire" is Innerpartysystem
's quintessential move-inducing cut, inspiring you to shift and sway in time with the changing tempos and mix-and-match instrumentation (the low-end keys are phenomenal here, as are Nissley's vocals). Throughout the record, Nissley has infrequent spurts of lackluster writing ("I used to think that you were pure but now I see that you're just empty" and "You know I love you but you're gonna be the death of me" are one of many clunkers taken from "New Poetry," and "This Empty Love" as well as "Obsession" are the complete antitheses of the typically-strong love-related tracks), but as "Hearts of Fire" exemplifies, Nissley does well in penning his observations:
You remember me from a better time
Infatuation with each other could summarize
All this is tied to the love you had assumed would never die
I can't remember what I had said
Something reminiscent of a relationship
It was easier to lack the truth than tell you how I feel
But I will surround your heart with lies until the end...
... Now I remember what I had done
Something meaningful to get you and fall in love
It was easier to tell you everything you want to hear
And it's a heavy burden on me, baby
A heavy burden I have never felt before
It's very easy to empathize with Nissley's experiences; we've all experienced something along these lines before. What makes "Heart of Fire" stand out most is Innerpartysystem reverting back to its archetypal electro-rock roots: crunching guitars, rumbling bass, and beautiful synthesizers soar with such effervescent blitheness that it's so very difficult not to get sucked into the music.
Nissley should also be highlighted for his more depressing writing not normally found on the dancefloor ("This Town, Your Grave" echoes post-apocalyptic imagery, as seen in lines such as "Face down in a population that God has left behind / In these barren streets the neon lights will be your guide . . . Washing your hands in blood won't take away the stains / Since there's no Heaven, you made this town your grave" and the sullen "Should I try to make amends with tonight and empty friends? / You speak in words you never meant / The ones you love already left / Say your piece and moving on / When morning wakes you I'll be gone" comes from "Last Night in Brooklyn"). Don't be mistaken, though - Nissley's sardonic lyricism only intensifies the chaotic eletronics underneath, and ultimately, it's the stunning programming and electronic-driven instrumentation that makes Innerpartysystem
anything but a repetitive listen.
provides is an outstanding electro-rock record with enough diversity and heterogeneity to cement itself as one of the top albums so far this year. While the band has a central formula - Nissley's softly sung and/or emotive shouted vocals + a wild array of synthesizers and keyboards for foundation to build upwards = a pretty damn good song more times than not - the experimentation and variegation throughout Innerpartysystem's debut to please fans clamoring for something with an undeniable beat. It may not push the envelope in the genre, but where it's convoluted and anxious, it's beaming and confident as well. Nissley's lyricism covers a wide spectrum, but he is at his best when he's at his most heartbroken and his most sarcastic, and the electronics that bleep, bloop, and blip throughout make for a constantly-refreshing listen. When it gets loud, you want to get up and move; when it's near-silent, you sit in quiet reflection. That's how powerfully moving Innerpartysystem
can be. While the record is not without its faults (such as clusterfuck
, pull-straws-at-random instrumentation and eccentric lyricism/vocal delivery as well as a minor personal squabble about the album's track ordering), it should come to no surprise that Innerpartysystem could translate their live set so well onto record based on their 45-minute set at Lollapalooza (despite aforementioned initial reservations). However, for those that missed out, starting with Innerpartysystem
is as good as it gets.
Heart of Fire
This Town, Your Grave
Everyone is the Same
Die Tonight, Live Forever