The Presets
Apocalypso


4.0
excellent

Review

by AtavanHalen USER (181 Reviews)
May 19th, 2008 | 66 replies


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The cool kids of Australian music go galactic on impressive follow-up.

The Australian dance music scene right now has been on the receiving end of this much public attention and coverage since the 1990s, with paulmac’s infamous Itch-E and Scratch-E and sonicanimation, who hit big with the smash “Theopoulis Thistler”. Groups such as Cut Copy and the Midnight Juggernauts, along with one-man party Muscles and the long-serving Pnau, are now selling out shows across the country and nationwide. While all these acts, amongst others on the scene, bring something to the table and all make some great music, it seems none amongst them in past few years have reached the heights scaled by Sydney two-some The Presets. To get some kind of grasp on how popular the band are in Australia, one can look to the fact that they can now headline main stages at festivals here without any difficulty- many at this year’s V Festival even chose to see the band over the reformed Smashing Pumpkins, and the audience response from their support slot with Daft Punk last year edged dangerously close to the response the robotic Frenchmen would later recieve. Their infamous live shows, bizarre costumes and their simple but effective approach to dance music has seen their fan base stretch across the globe, albeit with only one album (2005’s Beams) and a handful of EPs tucked under their belt. At long last, the duo of Julian Hamilton (also known for his songwriting collaborations with Daniel Johns of Silverchair) and Kimberley Moyes (who also creates warped electro under the moniker K.I.M.) have given fans eleven more reasons to dance in the form of Apocalypso.

Good news first. There are no filler tracks here, which is what seriously slumped Beams in terms of overall listening quality, featuring far too many short instrumentals that went absolutely nowhere. The sound established throughout the record, too, is an overall darker and far more ambitious one than found previously- what is on display here is still dance music at heart, but certainly a lot weirder to say the least. Even comparing the opening tracks of each record proves the change that has taken place- the Billie Jean drums and slick vocal percussion of Beams opener “Steamworks” has been replaced by the intense and commanding “Kicking and Screaming”, with a banging club beat and loud, erratic vocals. “People can’t believe how much fun we’re having!”, lead singer and synth programmer Julian Hamilton wails in the song’s chorus, sung with such vigour that for that split-second, you really do believe him. In itself, this is a strong indicator of what is to come- this is an album with energy levels through the roof, barely stopping at all for breath.

Hamilton and Moyes expand significantly on new territory throughout the album, experimenting with stuttering vocal samples (the extravagant and layered “Together”), confident synth-laden funk (potential single “Yippiyo-Ay”) and vocoder harmonies (album standout “A New Sky”). The lyrics are still unique and catchy- whilst they still predominantly revolve around relationships and various aspects of them, there’s still at least attempts of shaking the formula. “My People” documents a love affair between two immigrants- all the proof you need that political can get sexual too- whilst “If I Know You” is your typical break-up song with a Morrissey-like ambiguity. The band also ape popular culture throughout the record, referencing everything from Apocalypse Now (“Kicking and Screaming” is inspired by the film), to Lindy Chamberlain (“Yippiyo-Ay” flaunts the nonsense rhymesake lyric of “Dingoes took the babies!”) to Split Enz (“If I Know You” rips part of the chorus from the band’s “I Hope I Never”).
Perhaps the best discovery The Presets have made since last time, however, is that of their parents’ Depeche Mode records- “This Boy’s In Love”, a typed love letter to teenage love, sounds like it would have never been more than just an idea were it not for Dave Gahan and co’s influence. With an addictive falsetto chorus and sparse piano samples layered over atmospheric buzz and distant vocal echoes, the track is easily the best thing you will find on this record and maybe, just maybe, the best song of the band’s entire career.

Unfortunately, as fantastic as many of the songs are, the band still search for a firm identity- a fate suffered by many, if not all, of the band’s contemporaries (some even trying to sound like The Presets themselves). Hamilton’s unmistakable shouts and over-emphatic crooning aside, a lot of the music surrounding and backing it occasionally feels faceless and a little thrown together. When a unique sound is established, however (singles “My People” and “This Boy’s In Love” easily fall under this category with almost unmistakable synth and samples), the band are a force to be reckoned with, a powerhouse of big synth, even bigger kick drum and laptop-rocking beats. And it is at this stage where the band are their most listenable and enjoyable.
The catcher here is in the fact that there isn’t a bad song amongst the set, regardless of how much the band love the eighties- Apocalypso is a tight, entertaining, energetic and ambitious party.
Forget creating a city’s sound, or even a country’s sound- The Presets have created an album that is well and truly out of this world.



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3.8
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This IS the one....



Comments:Add a Comment 
Apocalyptic Raids
May 13th 2008


810 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

a massive step up from BeamsThis Message Edited On 05.13.08

Zebra
Moderator
May 13th 2008


2647 Comments


the stuff that i've heard from the Presets has been great but i've never got around to checking out any of their albums.

sgrevs
May 14th 2008


698 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I remember reviewing Beams about three years ago, good times.



Nice review though, but I find their current sound to be pretty grating and not too different to what other major dance acts are doing nowadays.

AtavanHalen
May 14th 2008


17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Like I said, they're getting closer and closer to a distinctive sound. I think they have the potential to make the most important non-rock Australian album since The Calling.

samthebassman
May 14th 2008


2164 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Another great Australian release, they are coming thick and fast this year.

Captain North
May 14th 2008


6793 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Awesome album. I'm in love with This Boy's In Love. Anywhere is pretty cool as well.

Jim
May 14th 2008


5110 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i like the singles quite a bit.

good review man. aussie love

/votes

Willie
Moderator
May 14th 2008


17389 Comments


The sound established throughout the record, too, is an overall darker and far more ambitious one than found previously- what is on display here is still dance music at heart, but certainly a lot weirder to say the least.
They've always been weird. I wonder how that would work with a darker sound. I have their first album and one of the EP's, and I didn't even know this was out.

Digging: Hypno5e - Alba - Les Hombres Errantes

AtavanHalen
May 14th 2008


17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oh, yeah, always been weird no question. This time around they're just weirder.

Willie
Moderator
May 14th 2008


17389 Comments


Well, that sounds like something that's totally worth getting, especially since the stuff I do have by them is entertaining.

AtavanHalen
May 14th 2008


17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Check it out, by all means. A couple of sample tracks are up on their MySpace.

Captain North
May 17th 2008


6793 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I do wonder why My People is a single though...it has nothing on If I Know You and Yippiyo-ay.

AtavanHalen
May 17th 2008


17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

^ Because it's a banger and people love it, that's why.

Captain North
May 17th 2008


6793 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Fair enough.

DemandMore
July 14th 2008


18 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I love The Presets.

Crazy live too.

Don't know if I agree on the comment that Apocalypso is a step up from Beams - I really loved that album.

But this is a great album in it's own right too!

AtavanHalen
October 19th 2008


17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Big congratulations to the guys for winning the ARIA album of the year!!

Jim
October 19th 2008


5110 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

more incentive to finally buy it.

Vooligan
October 19th 2008


3541 Comments


not happy, should have been nick cave or the living end.

AtavanHalen
October 19th 2008


17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

TLE definitely didn't deserve it, and Nick was always going to be an outside chance.

I was hoping it would have been Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, but still.

Vooligan
October 19th 2008


3541 Comments


yeah Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu would have been good for something different. But i was hopeing for Nick Cave. Just anyone but The Presets.



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