It seems like a lifetime since Jackson Fourgeaud aka Jackson and His Computerband was introduced to the world through a haze of blue bubbles. Eight years to be precise, and whilst his existence may have been forgotten by some, then not so the wise men and women at Warp Records HQ who have - seemingly for the thousandth time this year - reached into the past and brought forth fresh offerings.
Glow as a whole is an album as confused as it is diverse, playing chronological Twister with one foot in mid-Noughties LOUD NOISES French house, another in the idiosyncratic IDM of his debut, a hand in contemporary stadium dubstep, with a final limb grasping vainly in the direction of Seventies psychedelia. Like any game of Twister, it is at times fun, at others awkwardly painful and at breaking point finally collapses into a pile of gratuitous groping, which was the whole point anyway.
It begins with ‘Blow’, where Fourgeaud seems to have enlisted the help of the Electric Light Orchestra and told the drummer to really go for it, demonstrating his love of vocal harmonies while giving a hint towards the distinctly rocky sound with which he is newly enamored. The placement of the following track ‘Seal’ feels like a reassurance to fans of his earlier work, showcasing the glitchy electronics for which he was famed and growing into a reverb-laden sweep, epic in scale.
‘Dead Living Things’ sees a return to an ELO-inspired sound with ever so slightly annoying female vocals singing clichés about gold being dead and power hunger hungry people with miniature souls. ‘G.I. Jane (Fill Me Up)’ embraces the maximalist feel of most of the album and is the most obvious demonstration of how Fourgeaud seems to have ‘done a Trentemoller’, by taking his sound and unnecessarily rocking it up. It brings to mind images of self-congratulatory session musicians, hairspray and far too much strobe lighting, particularly with the crescendo of a chorus detailing how much he could give to poor old G.I. Jane.
If the album doesn’t sound too promising by this point, then fear not, as ‘G.I. Jane (Fill Me Up)’ proves to be the nadir as the record stutteringly improves. Whilst ‘Blood Bust’ sounds like a Vitalic cast-off - fun in a club but a relentless jack-hammer of a song elsewhere - ‘Orgysteria’ and ‘Memory’ provide a soothing respite on either side. The former having been cut from the same cloth as ‘Utopia’, features the same dreamy vocal harmonies, with meaty basslines joining in with melodramatic and haunting piano riffs.
‘Memory’ is a dreamy and sad pop song lamenting an old relationship where no memories remain, and whilst grammatically suspect in places (I’m still not sure how you “make sex”, but it does sound intriguing) is nevertheless a pleasant interlude. From here on the floundering between genres and the confused smorgasbord of sound finally begin to blend, losing its bi-polar nature and morphing into a finale that is accomplished and worthy of the eight-year wait.
‘Arp #1’, ‘More’, ‘Vista’ and to a lesser extent ‘Billy’ are as good as Glow gets. ‘More’ begins with wistful melody and echoey clipped vocals, before first a beat, then a twanging funk bassline are layered atop and the vocals unravel from their garage clippings into fully formed pop. ‘Vista’, the lead single, features dreamy vocals with an arpeggiated melody floating in the background before out of nowhere a huge helping of bass fuzz arrives. It switches between heavy dubstep and a wistful melody smoothly, with each subsection of the song getting its time in the sun.
‘Billy’ has the punchy stadium rock feel of the first half of the album, but instead of hitting you in the face, it takes a back seat, as emphasis is instead placed on the both threatening and melancholic melody, the track held together by piano chords distinct from the surrounding fuzz.
Glow, then, is generally a mixed bag, gothic, cinematic and made for large spaces and big stages. Subtlety is somewhat lacking, and whilst that cheapens the album slightly in tracks like ‘G.I. Jane’ and ‘Blood Bust’, in others such as ‘Arp #1’ and ‘Vista’ it has the opposite effect. Overall, you can feel how this has been geared towards its live performance, with Jackson stating, 'the live show opens a territory of everlasting changes and real time communion with the audience. My Computerband is now fully alive'. I only wish that in parts, it had stayed a bit more dead.
6Alex Baker's Score