Review Summary: She's great. He's useless. This album is half amazing.
Sydney, Australia's Sneaky Sound System released their self-titled electropop debut in the Summer of 2006, with instrumentation and production arranged by “Black” Angus McDonald, vocoder/vocals from Daimon “MC Double D” Downey and the lead vocals of “Miss Connie” Mitchell. The group is extra-successful within their own country, having won a kangaroo pouchful of ARIA awards, a triple
platinum debut album and a single that applied for permanent residence on the ARIA top 100. Camping out in the countdown outback for 70 weeks, “I Love It,”
was the first SSS single featuring the vocals of Miss Connie --- who joined the group after two single releases, but still in time for the debut. Despite all the domestic success, SSS has been fairly unsuccessful thus far beyond their tiny island. In 2007, Sneaky Sound System played the Sydney stage of the international benefit concert, Live Earth
, televised before a world-wide audience. In 2008 and '09, they released two LPs and three singles in the UK, two of which hit the back half of the top 100.
Opener, “I Love It,”
is an electronic dance track with a thick, heavy bass loop pumping throughout. Miss Connie has a voice that conveys nostalgia when applied to synth-heavy instrumentation, which creates for some extremely catchy songs, a few of which stand up to the best from the early synthpop genre. “I Love It”
climbed to #24 in Australia and hung around to set the record for longest stay on the top 100. ”Pictures”
heads further back into the '80s, and even has a Peter Gabriel style stop-motion video to cement the retro vibe. An explosion of the most danceable beats, beeps, and laser pew-pews to go with hook-heavy, energetic vocals, all of which combine to make the track a three-and-a-quarter minute party in song form. The grandest sound of all Sneaky Sound System tracks is found upon third single, “UFO.”
SSS is going to have to dig very deep into their bag if they are ever going to top the sound, energy and appeal of “UFO.”
An epic anthem-like chorus that rings with of the kind of ambition displayed by early U2, the song is tailor-made for a performance in front of thousands, like the version they nailed at Live Earth
All three of these singles are absent of MC Double D and his double damaging raps. Miss Connie provides the vocals for the lot sufficiently all by herself. The fourth single, “Goodbye,”
was a shared vocal track with a chorus just as good as the better singles. The verse, meanwhile, is all Double D mischief, as he does his best to prevent the listener from hanging around until his part is over. “Hip Hip Hooray”
was the first single ever released by Sneaky Sound System in November, 2004, a year before they met and acquired Miss Connie. Had she never taken over lead vocals from MC Double D, the group would have never had a shot at international success. Before being relegated to hype-man, Downey was responsible for all the vocals, composed of vocoder use and his brand of early white rapping. The vocals on “Hip Hip Hooray”
, tweaked on vocoder, are pushed beyond the limits of tolerability, particularly upon reaching the brilliant lyric “giveittomegiveittomegiveittomegiveittome...,”
in a style reminiscent of a loud, dying housefly. MC Double D's limited skills on the mic make for awkward attempts at electro-rap, which, when carrying a track alone, can take a perfectly good electro song, ripe with synthy hooks, and abruptly destroy it with his lack of any focused flow. While the amped retro synths work to great effect on this album, MC Double D's throwback style falls somewhere between the rap bits of Milli Vanilli and early Vanilla Ice. No mic skills beyond 1991 are used to any effect on this album. This fact causes more than half of the album to be a complete waste.
Sneaky Sound System's debut shows a lot of promise when drawn in by the singles; and judging by the strength of them, one would expect the album to be filled with fun and engaging retro-inspired electropop. Unfortunately, all four singles are the only tracks that showcase the voice of Miss Connie sufficiently. The rest are lost to the painfully awful MC work of dubious rapper, Daimon Downey. If your only exposure to Sneaky Sound System is the singles, this band looks incredibly promising. Upon further inspection of the album, however, it's clear the group have a bit to overcome if they're ever going to make an Aussie escape.