Backlash are back, entering the year 2004 with “Heliotrope” – the follow-up album to their debut album “Impetus”, which as you know, was widely loved by listeners and the music press alike (even here at Release). But we also know that follow-up albums can be notoriously difficult things to do, and are rarely as good as the originals. So how will this one compare?
The answer is quite simple – not bad actually! There appears to be a great level of musicianship on display here, with some of the background music being technically brilliant – the opening track “Lodestar” for example: very angular, very disjointed and seemingly about to stagger off tune, pitch and key at any second, before shifting into a quite sublime little electro-pop number, accompanied by some remarkably Dave Gahan style vocals from their new male singer. The vocal delivery throughout is amazingly Depeche Mode-like; but as they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! This doesn’t give you the whole truth really – look at the tracks here - “The Wrench of Parting” is a gloriously deep ballad, full of searing vocals and plinky-plonky keys, with clicks and whirrs buzzing around the place. Then my personal fave is “Hiatus3” – which is the nearest thing I have heard to a Mike Paradinas (U-Ziq) track with vocals! (And am ever likely to). The musicianship on this is outstanding, and deserving of repeated play – controlled yet experimental, poppy but still sitting towards the cutting edge - “Keep Throwing It Away” serves as a track, which encapsulates all of these ideals perfectly. Not too sure about “Splinter” though – reminded me a bit too much of an army marching song!
Over eleven tracks we are reminded how essential electronic music is to popular culture; and how wrong people are who say electronic music is the coldest, most impersonal type of music there is. There is more warmth and emotion existent in these tracks than in many so-called traditional bands' output. And hidden behind “Shiver”, if you leave the CD running, you can find a whole collection of further atmospheric tracks – now that’s value!
Take it from me, this album is all the way as good as the previous one, and deserves its place in your hearts and on your stereos. Could this be the sound of future electropop?