Robots talk in Twos - FROM THE CRADLE TO THE GRAVE
Mark L 18/06/2006
It's all very well the Lost Prophets having mass appeal and big choruses that the kids can shake their skinny fists to. But they have no edge, no true aggression. They are diluted and vapid. It's like their music has been put through a machine to make it more suitable for clean cut mobile phone adverts. All the invention and passion is stripped, until it's just one big haircut. I expect that matey boy from Lost Prophets wished he could combine inventive post punk, visceral messed up sonics, with big, emotional, chart friendly, punch you in the face chorus lines. But he just can't do it. Robots Talk In Twos can, and they are fucking brilliant.
'Robots' from Newport, South Wales, manage that difficult feat of combining accessible anthemic Saves The Day style melodics, with the raw, unpredictable and aggressive edge of At The Drive In. In fact, 'Robots' are very close sound wise to Jim Wards' (ex ATDI) group Sparta during the more melodic moments found on this EP. The tracks still retain the taught rhythmic stabbing trademark of ATDI's 'One Armed Scissor', with cascading intricate guitar melodies, and perfectly executed screamo vocals, but this is, more often than not, contrasted with explosive, melodic, pocket rocket chorus lines. An observation perfectly demonstrated by blistering lead track Roman Remains. In fact the whole EP is blistering throughout, the guitars are exceptional, one moment dense and aggressive, the next chorused and spacey. They are always lean, and taught, and never overplayed. The drumming is also fantastic, as are the vocals, which have a great range, from restraint, to passionate screaming, to those big ,epic, melodic moments, mentioned before.
I mentioned Lost Prophets earlier, and yes, Robots are certainly reminiscent of them at times, quite prominently during the 'These armies coming...' repeating vocal coda in brilliant second track City Of Dreadful Joy or the epic chorus lines which punctuate most of the EP.However, let me qualify that, because it's not the slur it seems.
'Robots' do this melodic rock chorus stuff SO much better than Lost Prophets it's untrue, with what feels like genuine, frustration and emotion. It's not sugary, it's perfectly passive/aggressive. They also surround it with sections of such wonderful discordance and maze like invention, that the songs come out as a beautifully formed balance between dissonance and harmony. Put it this way, I can't see the "Prophets' screaming about a 'USA US FASHIONISTA!!!', like the 'Robots'
do after another soaring chorus on third track Hourglass Disfigure. In fact, they make Lost Prophets sound like such a pale photocopy of what they should be, that I can even forgive 'Robots' the bits with the fake American accents.
Track 4 Ketamine Disco, incorporates mental, passionate, screaming, yet
still finds time for a Manics 'Everything Must Go era' esque 'oooo ooo' and some intricate 'Cure gone punk' like guitar lines. Then it goes all disco drum rhythms on us with almost Sitar like guitar, before taking an about turn into 808 drum machine rhythms with an atmospheric coda combining synth swells and gentle white noise. It's the least accessible track on the EP, but its enthralling and wonderful. The final track, Animal Equality, begins with 80s 'Johnny Marr gone post punk' guitars, and then builds up gently to another rousing anthemic chorus. It's great too. Spotting a pattern here?
I loved ATDIbut one criticism that could be leveled at them is that sometimes they were so busy being intense and discordant, that it was quite fatiguing to listen to them at times. Especially on their final album. Sometimes you need some big harmonies and melodies amongst it all, and thankfully Robots seem to get that balance right. They are always interesting, and most of the time astounding. Lyrically, when you can decipher the words, 'Robots' seem to take a cue from ATDI, with use of abstract, ambiguous imagery, and repeating 'soundbite' statements ('heads we scratch and itch to a skilled endeavor', 'Our message is bold and brash like an hourglass disfigure', 'palpitations of an innocence lost under clouded judgment of an escape'). The band even use their own moniker during City Of Dreadful Joy as a lyric ('And robots they talk in twos'). This is interesting, and at the moment does not seem to be over used, but the one thing I am weary of, is the band, in future, taking its cue from ATDI and Mars Volta, and eventually over doing the repeated, abstract, isolated, almost nonsensical soundbites to the point that the songs become a bit emotionally detached and harder to relate to. That isn't a problem here so much, but I think it is something to
be weary of. However, it is especially difficult to convey emotional sentiment that doesn't sound dislocated, in music such as this, where the rhythms are very fractured anyway. My favourite lyrics here are probably those in 'City Of Dreadful Joy ('These armies coming on and on they always look the same') and 'Hourglass Disfigure' ('USA US FASHIONISTA!!!') which despite being ambiguous allow me to be a bit of an amateur interpreter and see them as potential points about the mundanity associated with city centre armies of brain dead clones, and the Americanisation and standardisation of culture, telling us all what to do and how to live.
Robots Talk In Twos are certainly not standardthough. They are a breath of fresh air, taking the best of other bands and producing an EP without a weak track. They make Hundred Reasons look like leaden shit. If they made some of the lyrical sound bites a bit more easy to emotionally connect to, and dropped the slips into unative pronounced American accents (part of the standard culture they seem to criticise), I think they could be a classic band. Currently they are one of the best bands to come out of the UK in a long time, masterfully bridging the gaps between hardcore, post punk, and accessible rock. Watch this space.