Review Summary: headshot for william tell
It’s a pretty exciting time to be the glasses-in-chief at PC Music right now. With not one but two - two! - solo debut albums behind him, Mr. G. Cook has elected to step beyond the confines of his public image as an auteur-engineer and foreground himself more directly as a creator-performer-in-chief. If his first debut 7G
was a mostly successful flex of his stylistic range as a mastermind producer, then Apple
is a more goofy insight into A. G. Cook the zany spaceboy accidentally-but-not-really icon of Actively Marketed futurepop. This is unfortunate for his image - the gravest kind of misfortune possible in the PC Music miniverse - because Apple
is a vacuous waste of time that makes whatever cohesion, credibility and engagement he generated with 7G
seem like an extended bit with a 40 minute punchline.
Boo, no fun - why the hate?
Why the hate, indeed? Let’s look for answers in the most incisive, astute, inspired manner possible: by examining the songs that exist on this album. Nobody likes a track-by-track breakdown, but since Apple
has precisely Two songs, this shouldn’t take long. The first song is the spacey acoustic one where A. G. plays his guitar listlessly and sings listlessly and occasionally plays listless synths and delivers listless rhymes of words including but not quite limited to “eye” and “cry.” People have described this song as “clever” because A. G. Cook makes pop music out of radioactive pigshit and broken plastic, but he’s playing a real life guitar here, and the balance of timbres is consequentially mind breaking. The second song is a deconstructed ‘banger’ that exploits multiple decibels and leaves its own tattered momentum for dead more times and more aggressively than the character who isn't played by Leonardo di Caprio in The Revenant
. People have described this song as “clever” because it vaguely sounds like club music, despite the fact that it will never play out as danceable or, indeed, listenable to anyone other than waved strobefaces whose rank aftertaste of premonitionary vomit and WKD is the only thing stronger than the surplus reverb afforded to the music by ill-advised ketamine. You will hear the first song five times on this album and the second song twice. Some might argue that mellow synthpop brain-emptiers of “The Darkness” and “Lifeline” constitute independent third and fourth songs, but these are such bland re-re-ree-renditions of A. G.’s longstanding crusty pop Cookbook that flattering them as autonomous entities demands a greater creative effort on your part than the man himself was ever minded to put into them.
Credit where it’s due, he came up with two whole new tracks for this album! Maybe one of them will fly past your capacity for memory faster than a set of divorce papers through the letterbox of a certain Iowaa machinist; maybe the other is gratuitously obnoxious beyond even the most brazen recalcitrance imaginable from a man whose entire craft has recently been semi-eclipsed by fucking 100 Gecs of all people; maybe these two songs have absolutely no business being next to each other, and there is no novelty value in fission because their juxtaposition is facile well beyond the point of dullness; maybe the trademarked plasticated modulation he applies to his guitar layerings in the likes of “Jumper” is half-baked enough to bring to mind that time Grimes played four chords in straight quavers for seven thousand consecutive measures on “Flesh Without Blood“ to awestruck cries of innovation!
; maybe the electro-acoustic interplay is tame enough to make the noisestorm at the end of 7G
’s “Gold Leaf” and the digitalised psych screwage of “Lil Song” (on the same) look at once like ancient history and the distant future; maybe Cook pulls off the frankly remarkable feat of having a less expressive voice than his collaborator Hannah Diamond. Maybe! Who am I to judge him on these maybes, when he came up with two entire new tracks for this entire album’s worth of songs and sequenced them in a such a clumsy and illusionarily protracted fashion that Apple
makes the entirety of The Wall
feel like a Napalm Death song. Cook’s true talent has always lain in subverting his audience’s expectations for cheap thrills, yet the way he subverts even that
expectation here in favour of whatever you’d call the polar opposite of a cheap thrill is nothing short of breathtaking.
What is the polar opposite of a cheap thrill? Turns out it’s a £10 A. G. Cook album on Bandcamp. 2020 has been a cruel year indeed. Case closed - but before we wade sorrily away from this shitshow, let’s talk briefly about the elephant in the room: why is this review not rated at one of the lowest available scores? The answer to this lies entirely in the incredibly awesome bitcrushed instrumental “Stargon”, which has very little in common with the rest of the album’s incohesive gratuity. It’s beautifully melodic and electrically vibrant in the way of vintage Anamanaguchi, and the only reason I didn’t discuss it in my overview of Songs On This Album earlier was that I was afraid terming it a song in the context of the other songs here might read as a reductive detraction from its superseding valence as a saving grace. How much does it save? Hmm, not much - but think of how much it had to save! A. G. Cook set himself up for the impossible on this one, and if that’s not testament to his apparently unquenchable ambition as a 2D name on computer screens that people occasionally glance at, I don’t know what is.