Empire State Human

[Pop Robots sleeve]"Pop Robot" (Album, 2002)

9th Wave

Anyone who knows me well would, going by appearances alone, think it a safe bet on me thinking this was the best thing since sliced bread. And, on the face of it, I couldn't fault such an assumption. If we take a 'tick box' approach to manufacturing an album that is likely to appeal to yours truly, we come up with the following:

* Band name taken from a Human League song title when they were at their finest - Check

* Obvious but potentially promising genre title for the album - Check

* Subject matter for songs includes: technology, robots, space, the future, science fiction, etc. - Check

* Obvious but potentially compelling lyrics about all the above - Check

* Liberal use of Vocoder technology - Check

* Stereotypical if undeniably promising song titles... Pop Robot, Munich Robots, Robot Love, Apollo, Spacelab One, Flight From Mars, Voice of Radioland - Check

* Name checking key genre influences... BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Ron and Russell Mael, Karl Bartos - Check

* Samples from SF films - Check

A potentially killer list. Sadly, this doesn't get anywhere near close enough to even satisfy one's most basic guilty pleasure needs. That it is on American synth pop (a marriage of words I've never been able to reconcile) label 9th Wave should hint at what to actually expect. This is mostly quite scary, as in horrifyingly cheesy. The musical style is relentlessly syrupy, cheery synth pap of the worst kind. The kind that makes Erasure sound like Rammstein. The major stumbling block for me is the band's only unique and defining component - Aidan Casserly's alarmingly hi-NRG voice. This is synth pop as fronted by Leee John of Imagination!

The only close to successful moments are on Munich Robots which does a faintly credible impression of Kraftwerk and Under Your Spell which ditches all the awful attempts at the trappings of the 'electro' genre and simply turns in a respectable romantic synth ballad tribute to the early 1980s. However, if none of this has put you off then this version of the album (released under licence directly from the band themselves) contains virtually an album's worth of seven additional tracks and represents great value if you are partial to such stuff. 5/10

Rob Dyer (December, 2007)