Monday, February 4, 2008

Putting the Punk in Electropunk: Robots in Disguise's We're In the Music Biz

So, the wacky, mighty Robots in Disguise, Dee Plume and Sue Denim, have released a third album, We're in the Music Biz, today in the UK. Although I have not been able to listen to the full album at this point (even if I had pre-ordered it, I wouldn't have it by now), I can form a few opinions based on the three songs that I have heard.

If you don't already know who RID are, this is a brief rundown. Named after the slogan for "Transformers," they fuse elements of electronic music with punk - they are riot grrl without the politics. They also have an offbeat, robot-influenced-neon-coloured-Clockwork-Orange-boiler-suit aesthetic. It's difficult to ignore their connection with both The Mighty Boosh and Chris Corner (Dee Plume dates Noel Fielding and Sue Denim dates Chris Corner) because their off-the-wall feel is like the former and much of their sound can be similar to the latter. Of course Chris Corner has also produced all of their albums. Their first album, simply called Disguises, was fairly laidback and low-key with about half of the songs at a slower tempo. The standout release from it was Boys, a shuffling electro tribute to...well...boys. The cover for the Boys single was an inspired inversion of the famous Roxy Music album cover, featuring Chris Corner and Noel Fielding instead of the scantily-clad women. Another track on Disguises, What Junior Band Did Next, is reminiscent of a Noel Fielding-type rambling set to music. Their second album, Get RID!, was shorter, but more energy-packed. The songs were tighter and punchier with notable tracks Girl, Turn It Up, and The DJ's Got a Gun. In any form, RID are colourful, energetic, and run-as-fast-as-you-can-on-a-roundabout-and-make-yourself-dizzy fun.

Overall, this new album takes RID in a more rock direction - guitars and heavier beats make the album seem more punk than electro. They've still got the same great shouty voices and danceable beats. My initial reaction to the first single "The Sex Has Made Me Stupid" was quite a negative one - I found the vocals to be drifting into obnoxious taunting instead of their signature shouting (making it difficult to listen to all the way through), and the concept just seemed insipid and too childish even for them. However, I do like the Midfield General remix - maybe because the vocals are largely buried. (Incidentally, there's a track out there by Midfield General with Noel Fielding telling a rambling story about animals - very funny, I'll have to post it here in the future). I also do quite like the title track, and I love the guitar riff in the track I'm Hit - it sets a fantastic groove to the whole song. If you want to hear and see the title track, watch the music video via YouTube (it's apparently based on a 90's Japanese computer game called Two Robots). I truly hope that the majority of the album is in the vein of I'm Hit rather than The Sex Has Made Me Stupid. Nonetheless, RID have a great feeling of abandon about them - they don't take themselves seriously, which is refreshing. If you're a fan of bands like Chicks on Speed or Strawberry Switchblade or even just Japanese robots with pet monkeys, you'll love Robots in Disguise.

Should you like what you hear, your best bet on purchasing We're in the Music Biz is with a site like I don't know if there will ever be a North American release, but eventually it may be made available as an import. Or do what I do, and import it yourself.

I'm Hit - Robots in Disguise

The Sex Has Made Me Stupid (Stupid Sex Midfield General Mix) - Robots in Disguise

Boys - Robots in Disguise