Over the past few years, Sami’s electro project Faderhead have been difficult to ignore. Be it through ubiquitous dancefloor hits like Dirtygrrrls/Dirtybois or TZDV, or be it through the odd bit of internet controversy (mouthing off about other artists or coming across as a bit of an over-inflated rockstar), where it is frankly rather hard to ascertain whether it is all a joke, or Sami really is like that. Irony being something that never comes across particularly well on the internet.
Anyway, when I first stumbled across FH back in 2007, FH2 and their Infest appearance that year made for a bit of a breath of fresh air. Melodic electro/synthpop, with an occasional harder edge and lyrics that oozed clubbing atmosphere, booze, and more than a bit of sleaze. It also turned out that the debut album, while patchy, had some seriously good moments.
Fast forward five years, and three more albums have come, making this the fifth. And the output since FH2 has been, to put it charitably, inconsistent. The dreary all-ballads EP Horizon Born was best forgotten, and FH3 had a couple of moments, but quickly drowned in bombast (including a quite gruesome rock ballad). Which made the burst of energy that was Black Friday all the more surprising. A loose concept album, it had some of the best Faderhead material yet released, including a glorious piece of electronic escapism in the form of Escape from the Machine, which straddled both the dancefloor hedonism and the more thoughtful side like no FH track since the highlights of FH2.
Which makes this new album all the more frustrating. Almost all of the promise from that sparkling album pretty much vanishes from the off here: lead-off single Fistful of Fuck You is a lazy re-hash of both TZDV *and* Destroy Improve Rebuild, suggesting that the dancefloor is boring the shit out of Sami. If it is, why bother rehashing the same ideas? A clever video does not save this.
What is worse is that the rest of the album feels lazy, almost as if it was created on autopilot. There is yet another dreary ballad (Inside of Me), yet more references to girls and drugs (Swedish Models on Cocaine, which is actually a pretty great dirty electro track if you ignore the lyrics), another “sexy” vocal from Shaolyn (it isn’t)…and for an artist as in-your-face as Faderhead often is, the biggest criticism of this album is that all-to-frequently, it is easy for attention to wander and Boom! You’ve totally forgotten the past two or three songs.
One fascinating track – and an exception to this – is Watching Over You, which pulls in Daniel Myer from Haujobb, and is finally a ballad done right by Faderhead. Not a cover – just sharing a track title with at least two other peers, and with a similar outlook – it is an impressive, downtempo track that doesn’t overdo the histrionics and by holding back it has far more emotional power.
The inconsistency goes to the end, mind. This Machine is a storming dancefloor track that has little in the way of vocals, aside from a titular refrain, and is all the better for it, while I’ve found myself skipping the piano-led borefest Ballad of the Weak every time.
The thing is, though, it is difficult to escape the stark fact that, a couple of tracks aside, this is little more than a rehash of Faderhead’s past hits. All-too-often it feels oddly familar, with new ideas in short supply, inspiration just as lacking, and a sense that album six (when or if it comes) will bring more of the same. Having bought all of the albums so far on CD (I did not receive this release on promo), this could well be the point where I opt out.