Review Summary: When those long awaited weekends away never turn out the way you want them to, despite months of planning....
Just as all things tend to run their natural course in life, it seems that now would be the right time for Wolfgang Gartner to introduce himself to a world beyond the nightclubs of Los Angeles and stake his claim as another electro god to worship under. His career to date has progressed along much the same lines as that of fellow partner in crime Deadmau5, in that he's slowly amassed himself a devout following of strobe light aficionados always in search of that next big hit, and his courtship with commercial recognition has progressed just as amicably as, for the most part, none of his now trademark electro nastiness has been toned down past the point to render his name indistinguishable from the next. But in listening to his debut LP Weekend In America
a revelation emerges that seems to pinpoint the exact reasoning behind the long awaited full length: there just isn't a great deal to be said about eleven tracks of Wolfgang Gartner all at once. Back in an earlier incarnation of himself, he limited his releases to 12" selections, sometimes even single track releases. This worked in his favor because aside from the obvious faults there isn't really a great deal to complain about when there's only a handful of tracks to comment on. Here, it's a whole album comprised almost entirely of one single track, split into various movements but nothing hugely inflammatory to separate one from the next.
Now this is an honest critique, but this is also a dance album and nothing more. There's no complex motivations rooted deep into the fabric of this album, nothing on offer here to provide any kind of quiet revelation or epiphany days later. It has one simple task, and for the most part it succeeds in its goal, and as an introductory piece for Wolfgang there's no convincing needed on my part to assure you that Weekend In America
will see Gartner's star rise up into a whole new stratosphere, but for his long time followers..... well, they're gonna be in for a little disappointment. Now, granted that it's already been mentioned that Wolfgang failed to trade in his disturbingly psychotic electro licks the day the general public came calling, but even though his heavier-than-normal approach to what is a relatively commercial strand of house music is still present here, it's all been turned down a few notches. While that might be an obvious point to make given that Gartner has now chosen to bring in some outside help to compliment his beats, even on the solo stuff you can't help but get the feeling that he may just be operating on auto-pilot, cruising along completely assured of his imminent success. Again, the first-timers will fail to notice this, but the seasoned veterans may find themselves a little taken aback by this new approach. Whereas his signature track 'Wolfgang's 5th Symphony' was a rollicking fireball of bass fury and biting synths, here everything just seems to mumble to itself in the background, merely stumbling along in its proper formation and just finding itself doing a rather excellent impression of being adequate; adequate, but by no means great.
So now that it's been established that this is not a typical Gartner release, but rather Wolfgang-lite
it still needs to be mentioned that even though he's really only running on fumes than a full tank, there's still enough on here to define a few Saturday nights. Granted Will.i.am's announcement as a guest performer raised more than a few eyebrows, he remarkably does a more than admirable job at not destroying 'Forever', in fact he hasn't sounded this rejuvenated, or alive
in years. Even Omarion and the duel collaboration with Jim Jones and Cam'ron fail to be as obnoxious as one would expect any time a r&b/pop star attempts to cross over to the dancefloor; sure their efforts aren't memorable by any means but they're also not the mis-steps everyone expected them to be. Eve's (remember her?) turn on the mic is rather dreadful however, not because she fails to deliver anything more than the stock rave message artists more talented than her have been spouting cheesily for more than 10 years, but because she just sounds tired, bored even.
But it's obviously on the solo stuff where Gartner shines, or to be more specific, where one would expect him to shine. And again, it's all rather nice and shiny, and it does a great job of getting by and being very good
, but that notion that Wolfgang is holding back for some reason never leaves as the album continues on. 'Illmerica' is still a fun-filled electro tumbler with its family-friendly hooks, and 'Shrunken Heads' hits house gold with its loose fidgety nature, but there's also plenty of obnoxious bells and whistles that makes you wonder if all us club-goers aren't suffering from attention deficit disorder and have simply gone un-diagnosed all this time (check 'Menage A Trois' for seizure-inducing goodness). But Wolfgang still needs to be commended for producing a rather solid, if slightly tainted, house release that will see him reach a level of success that he does rightly deserve. I just wish that this wasn't to be the landmark for Gartner's (assured) rapid ascent to the big top, because he's capable of far better.