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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Apoptygma Berzerk: Rocket Science


1) Weight Of The World; 2) Apollo (Live On Your TV); 3) Asleep Or Awake; 4) Incompatible; 5) United States Of Credit; 6) Shadow; 7) Green Queen; 8) Butterfly Defect; 9) The State Of Your Heart; 10) Rocket Calculator; 11) →; 12) Pitch Black / Heat Death; 13) Black Vs. White; 14) Trash.

Looking back on these reviews, I almost feel sorry for not giving Apop enough credit — because at least this one thing is for certain: Groth sure knows how to change without any of us being able, in any way whatsoever, to predict the nearest future. He clearly started out as a commercial act, but there was so much cling-clanging, bizarre organ-grinding, and rhythmic irregularities in his music that no one really knew where this would take him. Then it brought him to techno (er, sor­ry, «future-pop» in the band's language) — then, when he'd seemingly settled in with two albums in one distinct style, along comes You And Me Against The World. We may hate, love, despise or respect all or any of these albums, but the guy's chameleonistic behaviour is in a class of its own, enough to make history that is utterly independent of our tastes.

Now Rocket Science. Again, accompanied by many fans' claims that this is Apop at their weak­est etc. etc.; fourth time in a row, the band is seen accused of selling out and yet, somehow, ma­nages to fill up concert halls across Europe and remain in a niche all its own, away from the gla­morous environment. Again, oddity upon oddity. Technically, Rocket Science is a bit of a com­promise between the recent and the old — a step back from the dynamic, but monotonous elec­tropop of You And Me, but at the same time nowhere near a real retread towards the glossy te­chnopop of Harmonizer. The album itself does not seem to fully understand what it is, and this makes it even harder for the reviewer to come out with a judgement.

The bad news is that the songs hardly provoke positive comments. The hooks are scantier than on You And Me, and it is no surprise that the fattest of them are buried on 'Trash' — a Suede cover, proving one more time that Groth is much more adept at interpreting other people's material than writing his own. Even when he succeeds in finding an interesting groove (the metallic droning riff of 'Incompatible'), he either lets it run for far too long or spoils it with silly drum machines and synth tones that, in his hands, have not changed much in ten years' time.

Probably, though, my biggest beef with Rocket Science is that it seems emotionally stuck some­where in the neutral zone — neither dark and melancholic nor bright and optimistic, not to men­tion trying to build up an emotional axis all its own, like some visionaries, from Amon Düül II to Björk and whoever else is written with an umlaut are capable of. You And Me was sufficiently well rooted in the dark side, but here Groth has downplayed his personality and, much too often, dissolved his singing (and he is a very good singer when he feels like letting you know about it) in a sea of guitar-and-synth noise. I am afraid he does not appeal to me that-a-way, and possibly this is also the real reason for all the negative reviews — because in terms of pure melodic structure, the songwriting does not seem particularly primitive compared to what it used to be.

Somehow, it's all very, very boring, though. One would do much better to just skip this release and replace it with 2006's Sonic Diary, a 2-CD compilation of remixes and various cover ver­sions, including non-album rarities, that Apoptygma had cloned through the years — a much stronger proof of the fact that God didn't just play a stupid joke on us on that fateful day of Au­gust 10, 1971. Then again, considering that Apoptygma's latest DVD carries the name Imagine There's No Lennon, maybe he did, after all. Thumbs down to Rocket Science, but the overall verdict on this oddly twisted product of the turn-of-the-century crisis has to be postponed.

Check "Rocket Science" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Rocket Science" (MP3) on Amazon

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