APOPTYGMA BERZERK: HARMONIZER (2002)
1) More Serotonin... Please; 2) Suffer In Silence; 3) Unicorn (duet version); 4) Until The End Of The World; 5) Rollergirl; 6) OK Amp, Let Me Out; 7) Pikachu; 8) Spindizzy; 9) Detroit Tickets; 10) Photoshop Sucks; 11) Something I Should Know; 12) Unicorn (original version); 13) Untitled 5.
There is an odd curve about this record, which starts out as Apop's technopoppiest offering ever, then slowly slowly digs into more experimental territory, with the emphasis shifted from primitive synth hooks to industrial-ambient grooves. The first half is, in fact, so simplistic that Groth was accused of «selling out» — a meaningless complaint, because no one really knows what exactly constitutes selling out or selling in to this guy. On the other hand, it is also claimed that the album is loaded with deeply personal songs, concerning his recent divorce and stuff.
Whatever be, I have no idea how to really enjoy songs like 'Suffer In Silence' or 'Until The End Of The World' (the latter, by the way, begins with a wicked synth riff totally swindled off 'Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da', making the song cool for about five seconds). Their lyrics are tragic, but the melodies sound almost happy, and the silly techno beat rules over everything, confusing the senses. To be fair, there is an awful lot of sonic stuff going on in 'Suffer' — but who is going to be noticing that? Goth ravers?
Things start improving once the hit single part of the album is over. 'OK Amp, Let Me Out' is a pretty cool title, under which hides a ten-minute near-completely instrumental trance composition, melodically even simpler than the hits, but, unlike the hits, it has some specific appeal, very hard to describe or pinpoint. Maybe it's just the overall «coldness» of the electronic patterns and the doom vibes — Groth's music works best when it's completely robotic, and it fits in well with the idea of an evil spirit oozing out of an amplifier. A grinning prank almost worthy of a Richard D. James treatment, although the latter would probably find much more space for many more gimmicks over these ten minutes (then again, maybe not).
Typical of the frustration that I experience with Apoptygma is the fact that a fun title like 'OK Amp, Let Me Out' would be found right next to a song called 'Pikachu' (!) which — I am not joking — is technically a «dark love ballad». Okay, so it's dedicated to his daughter, and it may be really a play on words ("It's 4 A.M., I watch you sleep" — 'Pik-ach-oo', got it?), but references to the silliest excesses of Japanese pop culture in general are not OK when you are aspiring to «art»; trend-sucking, yes, but not OK. The song, too, is nothing to write home about.
By the time the album takes you through a few more odd industrial twists ('Detroit Tickets') and is finally back where we started with the final pop spin of 'Something I Should Know', this frustrated feeling makes the record anything but a true Harmonizer. The oddities are more like a way of apologizing before the old fans of the band — «look at us, we can still do this weird dark thing that you can ritualistically dance to, but for the most part, we will just do the stupid dance thing 'cause that's what the kids really like». At least Welcome To Earth, from that point of view, was more honest about its nature. Thumbs down.
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