The Null Device
Yesterday I picked up the new Black Box Recorder album, Passionoia. (Heartland had it on import from the UK (and at UK prices too).) Black Box Recorder have, in their career, borrowed a variety of styles, from goth-rock ("Lord Lucan is Missing") to saccharine ghetto-pop ("The Facts of Life"); with their new album, they go electronic (think the post-Summer-of-Love synthpop of Dubstar or Saint Etienne); lots of sequencers, drum machines and the odd retro monosynth.
Other than that, the usual elements are there; sardonic commentary on everything from social institutions (The School Song) to dating and relationships (GSOH Q.E.D., with its recited personal ads and ironic Bacharach/David reference, and the Saint Et-esque These Are The Things), and of course the realities of contemporary British bourgeois aspirations (British Racing Green, The New Diana), all delivered in Sarah Nixey's lovely voice, spanning the entire range from sweetness-and-light to ice-queen dominatrix. And there's even a song titled Andrew Ridgely about growing up in the 1980s, mixing retro-pop references with traces of social commentary; it's sort of their equivalent of Baxendale's I Love The Sound Of Dance Music).
Black Box Recorder's first album, England Made Me, was sharp and minimal guitar-pop with darkly sardonic lyrics sung ever so sweetly. The follow-up, The Facts of Life, was The Awkward Second Album, more produced yet losing some of the black-and-white sharpness. It's now apparent that The Facts Of Life was a transitional work, the intermediate step between England Made Me and Passionoia. Well worth a look; whether you'd pay AUP40 for it, though, is a different question. Who knows; maybe it'll get a local release?