Review Summary: Electronic whiz-kids move even deeper into their banks of synthesizers, and create another masterpiece.
Innerpartysystem's self-titled album, released in 2008, was one of the best debut releases in recent years. Marrying thumping dance beats and swirling synths to emo-inflected pop rock resulted in an album that was startlingly original and magical to listen to. Not only was their sound completely their own, but they had the songs to back up their ambition, and "Don't Stop" was one of the finest singles of the last decade. 3 years later, they're back with a (mini) follow-up. Problems with their previous record label have seriously delayed this band's ascent, but now the "Never Be Content" EP is here as a fresh new start.
It's clear that in the 3 years since their debut, Innerpartysystem have changed. In contrast to the ultra-melodic, guitar-infused sound of their self-titled album, Never Be Content is a stark, mechanical collection of songs build entirely around synthesizers and electronic instruments, with not a guitar to be heard. This becomes immediately apparent right from the opening cut, "And Together", a stomping club smash that rides a thudding bassline and bombards the listener with big, bolshy synths. Change it may be, but it's soon obvious that the band can construct dance-floor fillers as well as they can dark electronic rock.
"Money Makes the World Go Round" soon follows, a similarly groovy slice of electronica complete with glitchy samples and effects-laden vocals in the verses. With hooks to die for and a swooping post-chorus riff that uplifts the song magnificently, this is one of the chief highlights of the EP. Next is the first single "American Trash", a venomous attack on American pop culture and the laziness of the music industry. It's practically impossible not to move to the slamming, bass-driven chorus, while the melodic bridge fuels the song with a sense of emotion that gloriously contrasts the dark, computerised nature of the rest of the song.
The second half of the EP is the more melodic, vocal driven half that more closely follows the blueprint set out by the first Innerpartysystem album. "Out of Touch" is an unashamed pop song, catchier than a cold and with gorgeous synths lapping at the edges that draw the listener into a dreamy soundscape. Though retaining the band's dark edge, this is probably the most radio-oriented the band have ever been.
In stark contrast is "Not Getting Any Better", an 8-minute labyrinth of crunching beats and melodic effects (though also making heavy usage of Patrick's clean vocals). The sudden incorporation of strings to the mid-section is a masterstroke, and the closing instrumental portion of the song is a synthesized nirvana (even if one of the riffs is startling close to Pendulum's The Island Part 2.) Never Be Content ends with the understated, dreamy vibe of "Squid", encouraging a beguiling mix of emotions ranging from pure despair to a strange sense of hope.
While Never Be Content doesn't quite match the wonderful ambition and songcraft of Innerpartysystem's self-titled album, it is nonetheless a fine expansion to their catalogue with a handful of classic songs. A brand new full album is expected to be released by the band in the late summer, and I for one cannot wait to see what the band have in store for us next.