Review Summary: In an attempt to reinvent themselves, Tokio Hotel have created their most concise and enjoyable record to date.
It’s amazing to see how quickly time flies. It’s something everyone says and everyone discovers at one point or another but it’s also a discovery we have over and over again, with each discovery being just as significant as the last. I remember middle school me being entranced by a young Bill Kaulitz when I first saw the music video for “Ready, Set, Go!” air on MTV. I didn’t think too much of their music at the time but I was more than happy to see any music video I could with Bill in it; but I digress. Fast-forward to 2014 and Tokio Hotel returned after 5 years of silence with a mediocre record, trading in faux-edgy pop rock for a more mainstream appeal. Now the band has released their 80s synth-pop inspired album Dream Machine
; claimed to be “the record we’ve always wanted to make”, have Tokio Hotel finally found their sound or will their dreams fall short"
For starters, the band has certainly taken the synth-pop transition to heart as synths dominate the album; the opener and lead single “Something New” kicks things off with atmospheric, almost dream like waves of tones as Bill effortlessly floats above them with a soothing vocal performance. Meanwhile tracks like “Dream Machine” offer a much more bouncy and upbeat rhythm. While the instrumentation throughout Dream Machine
is nothing incredibly unique or complex it manages to keep itself varied enough to remain interesting without sounding incredibly disjointed or inconsistent. Several of the tracks such as “Elysa” and “Better” open with emotive piano leads before fading back behind the synthesizers as they take of the rest of the song. Album highlight “Easy” is the most energetic and most emotive performance that the band may have ever done. The multilayered synth lines and vocal effects echo an effect much like Porter Robinson’s “Sad Machine”. The instrumentals of the album have certainly been done before and better, but Dream Machine
is more than commendable effort for a band that sounds like they are finally coming into their own.
While the lyrics of the album drift away from the overt sexual themes and innuendos exhibited in Kings of Suburbia
; instead they primarily focus on aspects of relationships of the past and future. For the most part these lyrics are pretty benign, if not a bit cheesy, but they show that Tokio Hotel still have ample room for improvement. Moreover, the song writing of Dream Machine
gets particularly lazy on the latter half of the album. Songs such as “Better” and “As Young As We Are” offer one-phrase choruses that repeat over and over again, making the songs feel longer than they actually are. “Better” actually uses the word “better” about 61 times in its duration of less than four minutes. When songs do branch into different territory, lyrically speaking, one would think it would break the monotony of the album; unfortunately title track, “Dream Machine”, talks about cutting loose and getting high, and not in an interesting manner either.
It wouldn’t be right to talk about Tokio Hotel without talking about their poster child and front man Bill Kaulitz. While he has proven to be a fairly competent vocalist in the past more often than not Kaulitz sings with air-y voice this time around; while this adds sense of emotion or distress that heightens certain moments of the album it also sounds as if he is afraid to really hit some of the notes he is going for. It’s not that he is a bad vocalist either, he demonstrates an impressive range on Dream Machine
and shows some really solid falsettos on tracks like “Something New” but it just seems like Kaulitz’s performance just could have been so much more. A more dynamic performance from Bill Kaulitz could have been profoundly beneficial to this record.
In an attempt to reinvent themselves, Tokio Hotel have created their most concise and enjoyable record to date. While it is far from a perfect record the band has shown significant improvements in both song writing and performances. Dream Machine
manages to be a fun and catchy record that will hopefully mark the beginning of a new chapter in the band’s career. The album is mature enough to not only bring in a new audience for the band but also close enough to their pop sensibilities to keep up with their long time fan base. Dream Machine
may not win any awards for it’s musicianship but it is definitely worth a listen for those looking for an enjoyable synth-pop record.