Wave Machines! Everyone loves a good wave machine and if your local swimming pool had one when you were a kid then you were onto a winner every Saturday afternoon. Hell, the Maccabees even dedicated a whole song to the splish-splash fun time gimmick in ‘Lachmere’.
But Liverpudlian 4-piece serial misery-meisters Wave Machines aren’t fans of such fun. Apparently their name sake is more about the idea that we’re all just a nation of hollow waving machines. Okay then.
Back to the music and ‘Pollen’ is the band’s sophomore album following their debut in 2009. That was the last time I heard or saw a peep from the quartet, back in 2009, when I caught one of their gigs at a tiny show. It all began with the band wandering on stage wearing masks of their actual faces which was a nod to their apparent shyness and singer Tim Bruzon called it a ‘theatrical device’. Ironic when all the masks did was draw more attention to their faces and the whole performance was painfully self-conscious. Not quite introverted enough to be melancholic and not quite upbeat enough to be dance-to-able, what ensued was an unnerving, slightly creepy and unforgettable gig, but not in a good way.
So the release of new album ‘Pollen’ is a glittering chance to showcase what the devil Wave Machines have been up to in the last 4 years. The first half of the album is wonderfully arresting even if opening track ‘Counting Birds’ has entirely ripped off U2’s ‘Numb’ “Don’t look, don’t think, don’t speak, don’t try, don’t smile, don’t care, don’t reply.”
‘Ill Fit’ has a downright sexy bass line and wouldn’t sound out of place on the playlist of any electro indie club, ‘I Hold Loneliness’ continues the promisingly ear-pleasing synth manipulation and ‘Blood Will Roll’ is similarly strong.
Unfortunately the rest of the album wanes and fades into a fog of landfill blips, bleeps and over-done strained lyrical content. The promo video release for ‘I Hold Loneliness’ is sleek but also suggests that the try-hard masks may be back.
A shining example that sometimes less really is more.