Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Early adopters need resolve and passion; a certain dogged determination and faith that they're right and that they've made a good decision. When there are no contemporary comparisons to be had and the music of choice is seemingly ploughing its own furrow there is no room for doubt. You're either all in or nowhere to be seen.
When it comes to Artificial Pleasure you could be forgiven for thinking it sounds somewhat familiar and that you've heard it all before but there is little else that's remotely like it around now. You may be forgiven for the odd moment of deja vu though. Talking Heads meet Blancmange on 'Wound Up Tight'. Elements of Berlin period Bowie and Tubeway Army era Numan can be heard throughout and the odd nod towards Heaven 17 and Cabaret Voltaire abound.
On 'The Bitter End', Artificial Pleasure's debut album, you get New Romantics born again spliced with a throwback electro infusion filled with a hedonistic flamboyance. There's little chance of people saying, "It's ok", or "It's alright"; chances are you'll either love it or hate it.
Album opener 'I Want Something More' draws you in with its scuzzy keys and whirring guitars before the vocals kick in and you'll think you're back in the 'Underpass' with Jon Foxx or 'Down In The Park' with Gary Numan except that you're not. The sound that AP have settled on is heavily influenced but it is a sound all their own. It is the past re-invented with a contemporary twist.
The album veers from electro to guitar-driven pop via funkier asides and rousing bursts of theatrical showmanship. There is the immediacy of the hook-laden tracks such as 'All I Got', bass slapping 'I'll Make It Worth Your While' and 'Heroes' tribute(?) 'On A Saturday Night', and then there is the more contemplative side to the album on tracks like 'Turn To Dust', instrumental 'Stammheim' and 'You Keep Me Coming Back For More'. With echoes of a melodramatic Marc Almond to be heard on the latter you can only wonder what the live re-incarnation of such tracks might give up on the current tour. (You can't help but get the feeling that vocalist Phil McDonnell may have spent more than just a few hours honing his skills at home in front of his bedroom mirror).
'The Bitter End' might seem like an odd place to start with a debut album but Artificial Pleasure have delivered a very cohesive fusion of sounds that draw on certain themes and influences to create something new. Each of the twelve songs is well constructed and very well produced to make up an intriguing album that could either be considered an anachronism or a pioneering glimpse into what lies ahead of us.