Are you by chance one of those people who have a cousin or two that’s more than a little snotty and rude? Those kinds of semi-blood relatives who go out of their way to express that they’re in your presence out of obligation because they have friends who are richer than you and don’t have the thinning hair gene, and for some reason, know how best to go about blowing up the side of a house? However, you don’t hate them. They’re too charming, eloquent, pretty and fluffy while being able to be revolting at the same time. Such is what comes to my mind when I read the lyrics of EPO-555. I won’t beat around the bush about this. Their lyrics are puerile hokum. They hardly try. Sure, they are a pop band and sure, English is likely not their first language. But give me a break. I hope one day that humanity will discover the mysteries of the furthest reaches of space, if only to quell the ocean of songs dedicated to spatial imagery. But no, the universe has to be this expansive, ominous sea of black nothing that will surely destroy us all, if not for our sins, than for the sheer fuck of it. Granted there’s only one song about space, but the rest is rather melodramatic and opaque. And yet when it comes to their actual music, resistance is futile.
Their lyrics may seem secondary, but to make their music tertiary would be a primary sin, and they go through great pains to avoid committing it. Every song off this album surges up and over with pop brilliance of some kind, be it noise, straightforward indie or electronic pop. This is nothing new of course. Electronic music has been stirring quite a pseudo-movement in the indie universe. To many indie rockers, it has occurred to them that indie rock’s innocent simplicity and dance music’s sheer childlike joviality make fantastic bedfellows. What didn’t occur to them was that in order for this synthesis to work, they’d have to have even the most minute appreciation of electronic and dance music. The most popular acts have only been half-successful. Ben Gibbard did it because he thought it was kewl and would create a massive ocean of star-tattooed boys and girls aching to give him free coke and/or blow jobs**. Mates of State did it because they have no talent. And those in Frou Frou, I’m convinced, are robots. Bloc Party accomplished it, but they got ashamed and started ripping off Wire instead of Gang of Four. EPO do, however, make the hybrid work. They might not be inherently danceable and they might not altogether rock, but their knack for sonic atmosphere and pretty notes takes them sheer distances away from the aforementioned bands (Bloc Party somewhat excluded).
A listening of EPO-555 is a fanciful one. No matter what shade of Scandinavian grey (is Denmark in Scandinavia?) they may hue themselves with, there is a glimmer of preciousness that pierces through every note. As soon as their second track “Hyperschlieb” kicks in, you’re awash in what I’d like to call “Euro-fuzziness,” sweet hushed vocals, light but varied guitars and pensive electronic beats. The electronic elements of EPO, for some songs, provide a consistent but low-key pulse and seep into the pre-industrial instruments with no roughness or desire to overtake the whole arrangement. For others they are more prominent but no less bullying. “Pizza Tintin” contains a top layer of a distorted beat with listless indie strumming under it before shattering the calm on all fronts, by far the most moving track aside from “Hyperschlieb.” “Tess La Coil” proves the poppiest of songs on the collection to add to it, it’s the most synth-poppiest of songs, a more high octane instance is “Maid in China,” which is lush with indie whimsy and rock radio gloss.
EPO-555 overall cast a somber shadow, which seems more out of habit (for the genres they waft in and out of, not their nationality) than out of sincere ache and sorrow. This is totally cool though. If they were any more psyched to be playing music, they’d be Abba, and I’m not the type of person to take the time out of being annoyed to appreciate shit along those lines. If you are looking for that, however, may I direct you to a pop group from the pimply adolescence of the teeny-bopper era that, or so I’ve read, did mostly ABBA covers. Of course I forgot the name of that group (ed note: The A-Teens), it’s just a dick move of me to come out and say you’re up shit creek without a paddle.
** Critic’s note: I’m not seriously implying that Ben Gibbard is a drug-crazed bisexual pervert, only that The Postal Service lacks sufficient artistic substance to prove otherwise, just in case someone (Sub Pop) wanted to sue him for defamation of character.