Album Altered Beats
posted by November 6 at 9:20 AMon
I may have made a mistake, or at least an omission, in my review of Alter Ego’s new album, Why Not?! in this week’s CD reviews. See if you can spot it:
Alter Ego, the German duo of Roman Flügel and Jörn Elling Wuttke, have been producing electronic music for more than a decade, but they didn’t make a popular impact until 2004 with the release of club anthem “Rocker.” The track’s name, as well as the heavy-metal guitars sublimated in its squealing portamento synths, placed the duo in that fertile (but not yet overcultivated) crescent between rock and techno. If Justice are the Christians, then Alter Ego are the Sumerians: Without “Rocker” there would be no “Waters of Nazareth.”
In the three years since “Rocker” and the full-length that contained it, the formidable Transphormer, Alter Ego’s brand of aggressive drum machinery and growling synths has ushered in a flood of like-minded producers, many clustered around the Ed Banger and Kitsuné labels. So where does that leave Flügel and Wuttke?
Judging by their new album, Alter Ego aren’t feeling inundated; rather, they’re floating along on the high tide with the same crushing sound and acidic humor as always.
The 74-minute, 11-track Why Not?! is front-loaded with the ridiculously fun title track, a pitch-sliding techno banger tied to an unmistakable Bavarian beer hall oom-pah, and the lush Tubeway Army tribute of “Gary.” These are more jovial songs than anything from Transphormer, and they set a lighter mood for the new album. The drunk swerving of “Fuckingham Palace” and the synthetically chuckling “Jolly Joker” only heighten that mood.
The album loses some steam heading into the halfway point with the acid workout of “Queen Anne’s Revenge,” and a problem starts to reveal itself: Alter Ego, for all their good humor, make some seriously punishing techno. It might work best in smaller doses.
With the exception of the squawking “Chicken Shag” and the air horns and artificial fog of “Pleasure Island,” the album’s second half works into a less grueling but still rewarding groove. You just might want to give yourself a break before flipping the record over. ERIC GRANDY
It has to do with my take on “Gary.” Line Out tipper Dave writes, “It’s actually a tribute to Gary Glitter. The rhythm’s lifted directly from the Glitter Band’s ‘Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah!).’”
Damn! I was certain the song’s ’80s synth pads were a nod to Gary Numan.
“That’s very possible,” concedes Dave. “But the rhythm is from the Gary Glitter Band, lock, stock & barrel. Although that title could make it a dual tribute, come to think of it…”