|A Life Divided - ‘The Great Escape’ (AFM Records)|
|Written by Johnny H|
|Saturday, 12 January 2013 03:30|
With everything that the European electro goth rock genre has become over the last decade or so I really couldn’t think of anything more unappealing to be starting my 2013 reviewing with than this the latest album from German electro gothic rockers A Life Divided. I mean do I really need to be listening to yet another band pretending to be Finnish bores The Rasmus, their long since past their sell by date fellow countrymen H.I.M, or the teutonic terrorists Rumpelstiltskin this early in the new year?
Alright granted I might have made that last band up but you get the drift right? Because as the virtual needle drops on ‘The Great Escape’s opening track ‘The Lost’ I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be than having a backy off Steve McQueen knowing full well I’m only about to get wrapped up in some virtual barbed wire trying to flee the scene.
In fact the silky area rock sounds of ‘The Lost’ that greet me, all staccato guitar riffs gangland backing vocals and pitched shifted melodic counterpoint chorus almost make me turn the whole thing off before I’m even three minutes into the album’s bakers dozen of tracks. The fine line between Linkin Park (or in this case a band trying to sound like them) and my CD collection being one line I never intend to cross…ever.
‘It Ain’t Good’ is the next track up and I’m starting to wonder if this might be some prophetic kind of warning that will ultimately see me resigning the album to my pile of records I just can’t get through, but contrary to what A Life Divided’s mainman Jürgen Plangger would have you believe, this song really is quite the opposite to it’s title, it’s actually very bloody good indeed. It might be as poppy and as sugary as a super sized bucket of the sweetest popcorn money can buy, but it charges along on a Billy Idol type fist in the air rhythm that immediately has me thankful I have managed to stick around this far.
‘Clouds of Glass’ is also a bit of a sleeper, and perhaps a Euro hit just waiting to happen, built curiously on a leftover Depeche Mode keyboard lick and a Phil Collins lyrical lift, it broods and pouts like a bored teenager wearing his or her heartagram on their sleeve. ‘The Last Dance’ meanwhile throbs and pulses along on a Euro dance beat that makes me suddenly think of gODHEAD, a band I have almost forgotten liking back in the mid nineties.
‘Game Over’ is more of the same pinging and peeping synths all over the place whilst here JP (as he also likes to be called) switches between a vocal style that is equal parts Jyrki 69 and that feather haired pixie man from The Rasmus.
With ‘The Great Escape’ reaching it’s mid point with ‘Feel’ it also shifts on a musical axis that sees the album become something of a mirror image of itself from there on in. ‘Feel’ itself actually sounds what I would imagine Let Loose playing a Yazoo cover would sound like. It’s not going to be to everyone’s taste unless they go by the name of Dave Prince but suddenly even I’m forgetting why I didn’t want to listen to this album in the first place.
The tracks that directly follow this though ‘Perfect Day’, ‘Foreign Rain’ and ‘Wait For Me’ do make me remember why, as they all sound like JP ticking off influences on his songwriting list, starting with a fiery attempt at some Rammstein, before giving Sisters Of Mercy a quick peck on the Eastern cheek then ending up somewhere not short of the full moon and dirty heart of INXS. It’s unfortunately all a bit bland and samey, perhaps suffering from the strength of the tunes that make up most of the first half of the album.
‘Goodbye’ introduces some misplaced blastbeats underneath another sugary sweet chorus whilst ‘On The Edge’ manages to sound like both Shy and Mr. Mister before we are even 30 seconds into it, before it descends into some even more misplaced death metal style vocals. It is at this point that Steve McQueen starts to rev his motorbike up in the back of mind once again, as this record is starting to go nowhere very fast indeed.
As I’ve said already perhaps it’s the strength of the early half of the album but A Life Divided suddenly sound like a band devoid of any fresh ideas outside of a set of five or six very good maybe even excellent songs, and ‘Space’ reinforces this point by merely sounding like an identikit version of all of those aforementioned songs, wrapped up in three minutes and fifty seconds of filler.
Album closer ‘If You Want To’ though does show that when they want to (sorry I couldn’t resist that) A Life Divided can push their boundaries as they leave us with a rather pleasing and effortless Duran Duran meets Talk Talk electro lullaby that has me pining for my days spent in a fur collared flying jacket, blouse open to the waist thinking I was Blaenau Gwent’s answer to Julian Cope.
As a whole then this album was nowhere near as garish as I thought it might be, but in saying that A Life Divided are most certainly no Officers or IAMX (two British electro rock outfits far more deserving of your attentions), but as a piece of European electro goth rock ‘The Great Escape’ is most definitely a welcome kick up the arse for a scene long since devoid of something new and exciting.