Before ever having been acquainted with Fischerspooner, I had my share of preconceived notions about the electroclash duo. Based on a few song snippets and a photo of Warren Fischer and Casey Spooner made up like they were performing a two-man off-broadway version of Cats, I expected them to be a little more flamboyant, a little more like Sparks and a little less Kraftwerk-informed. In fact, I sort of expected them to sound exactly like The Scissor Sisters, prior to my actually hearing the gender-bending Elton John worshippers. As it so happens, unsurprisingly, these notions I had formed in my warped little mind were pretty far off the mark. While I would have been perfectly fine with a theatrical, operatic electro-pop duo, what Fischerspooner really sounds like is far better than anything I could have thought up on my own.
Odyssey, the new effort by Fischerspooner, is a fine achievement in electronic pop music. More human than Ladytron and less self-parodying than LCD Soundsystem, Fischerspooner are the penultimate party band. Each song is supremely catchy and just synthetic enough, demanding shakes, gyrations and swivels from everyone in its path. This is, I imagine, what electroclash was supposed to sound like the first time around, but only hinted at, obsessing on kitsch rather than honest-to-goodness songwriting. And I suppose there is some level of absurdity that comes from criticizing an electronic medium for being too mechanical. We don’t indict rock music for being too loud, after all.
Still, Odyssey is rich in great songs, dancefloor anthems and head-bopping singles. Within the constraints of what could have been dismissed as a passing fad, Fischer and Spooner crank out a surprisingly diverse mix of electro-werks (“Just Let Go,” “Cloud”), Franz Ferdinand-like post-punk (“Never Win”), house anthems (“A Kick in the Teeth”) and new wave tracks rife with political commentary (the ugly Americanism of “We Need a War”). A great portion of the album is reminiscent of mid-period Depeche Mode, complete with the cynical gloom of pre-Jesus complex Dave Gahan.
There’s an unbelievable amount of energy on Odyssey, but somehow Casey Spooner’s vocals leave an overall feeling of restraint, as to not allow the listener to become completely drained. No matter what, it will definitely ignite a desire to writhe about under a disco ball in your hippest SoHo garb. There are no operettas, no Lloyd-Webberisms and certainly nothing that resembles The Scissor Sisters. Odyssey is, simply, a great pop record.
Kraftwerk – Trans-Europe Express
Ladytron – Light and Magic
Trans Am – The Liberation
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.