Review Summary: Meh.
Insomniacs often appreciate boredom in a tranquil, morbid and sometimes depressed sort of way. Watching the sun rise after a night of consciousness is thrilling in a some forms. Beautifully, your eyes heavy with the anxiety of depression and stress seem to stay wide to witness the death and birth of our star. As the periwinkle sky appears once more, one’s perspective of time stretches into a new view on “night” -- is it just an idea? Is night an actual thing -- and if so, what is day in relation to night since “day” is used to describe the whole 24 hours? I pondered this quite a bit while listening to Chromatics’ 2010 EP, ‘In The City.’
This album was released proceeding the Italians Do It Better debut, ‘Night Drive’, which was much more dreamy than the proceeding albums which would sometimes be labeled as post-disco. ‘Night Drive’ contained more good characteristics than bad, but it was clear that Chromatics was timidly and gradually building up to their synthesizer-drowned, re-verb-soaked, psychotropic, gender-confused, paranoid dream pop. Soon after listening to the title-track of this album, I realized how mature Chromatics is, and this is the most autumnal that they have sounded in their whole discography.
String leads, driving bass melodies, guitar lines and drum programming make ‘In The City’ an intricate and dreamy listen. The first track instantly pulls the auditor into a deep psychedelia, tranquil and, in a hidden way, ambiguous and scary. “Shining violence, shining victim / in the headlights, shining pistol / shimmer diamonds from a necklace / faceless driver, drive away / in the city…” Chromatics, unlike most other bands attempting aforementioned atmosphere, hone this style perfectly on this EP. In the ballad-esque Springsteen cover, “I’m On Fire”, Chromatics furthers this idea with an extremely calm sound and pedophiliac lyrics. The music, though somewhat simple, is very catchy and has well-developed synth hooks. This is displayed mainly on “Lady”, a song with robotic auto-tuning and melodic keyboard leads (this song would be recorded later in a more accessible fashion on ‘Kill For Love’, but I think that the original is much better than this one.) “Tears of Pain” possesses these qualities as well in a synthesized, orchestrated means. Clearly, Chromatics was a band who was very passionate about their music and exceedingly skilled.
This is where ‘In The City’ gets very tedious. The music, though psychedelic and well-written, falls short of absolute acceptance because of the apathetic performance -- no passion or aggression is displayed in any of the songs, and those traits are usually what I found most attractive about music. Instruments are played as if the musicians are sight-reading, drums are played with absolutely zero changes throughout, and vocals are implemented as if the vocalist has spent her whole life in a box -- Ruth Radelet does not show any form of feeling when singing. To truly play music, one must immerse oneself in the fury of it all, and Chromatics failed at this.
Another problem with ‘In The City’ is that some of the songs are too long for their content -- snipping the songs a minute or two shorter does not trivialize the track at all. The opening track and “Dark Days” exhibit such devices painfully well; the repeated melodies and droning beats are definitely not worth 7 minutes apiece. Minimal progression and little passion make this album a greasy listen.
What I notice often about pulling involuntary all-nighters is that it may be peaceful, quiet and tranquil, but lets face it: it was not thrilling. It was not memorable. You may want to go back for the same feeling that you get from watching the sunrise, but besides that, it causes mind-numbing thought pulsations that make you want to sleep more than anything... Night is an idea. An idea which mixes the horrifying ambiguity of darkness with the silence and peace of the planet's daily shadow. An idea which pleases some and stresses others. An idea that is highly audible on the ‘In The City’ EP. 4/5