At first impression, Oxford synth-keyboard-rock duo 100 Bullets Back make a very high class racket - but as the album progresses it apparent that there's a thin sheen of seediness clinging to their slick surface. Falling somewhere between pop's polished production and rock 'n' roll's hint of squalor, their electro-pop ends up with a kind of stylishly futuristic film noir fatalism which pleases greatly.
Pet Shop Boys references need, I suppose, to be made when discussing male electro-pop duos, if only to say that the comparison's a dubious one when dealing with something so grounded in rock 'n' roll impact as this. The sound's a clever one (possibly a little too conscious of its own cleverness, but we'll forgive it that), a rich-tasting layer construct of synth, voice and guitar which has a satisfying depth to it. The beat often leads the tune, with the vocals jerking along in time and the hints of melody seeming only to serve as an accompaniment to or even an offshoot of the dance of interlocking drum machine/synth/keyboard rhythms. And yet you can always sing along, which is nice, and there are always just enough hooks among the clever noises and complex beats to ensure that something sticks in your head and gets hummed absentmindedly for days.
I'm not quite sure that the lyrics adhere to the moral standpoint implied in the album's title, or in the names of some of the songs (Don't Follow Fashion (Buy Something That's Out Of Date) being a case in point), and the words which do imply politics have a tendency to be somewhat clumsy. One could also quibble over the fact that, 100 Bullets Back having chosen a rather clinical musical medium which doesn't carry extreme expressed emotion that well, the moments when they decide to go all emotive and heartfelt on the listener really jar and are - sadly - a little cringeworthy. But these are minor points: an album so accomplished can get away with such inconsistencies. Refute Fake Icons is intelligent, inventive, tuneful and confident, and it has bucketloads of style. If you like electro with a kick or a slickness to your rock 'n' roll, I would swiftly point you in 100 Bullets Back's direction.