"The future ain't what it used to be," Yogi Berra once said. But when it comes to dystopian futures, pop culture has been remarkably consistent; for decades artists have been sharing pretty much the same vision of the apocalypse.
Accordingly, Tucson synth-punk outfit Digital Leather explores well-mined veins of dark, sci-fi-themed electronic rock. But its latest release, Sorcerer, succeeds thanks to its ability to mix up tempos and styles, and inject each song with hooks more infectious than the airborne Reaper virus. The electronic instrumentation and disaffected vocals on "Black Flowers from the Future" recall synth-punk pioneers Suicide and the Units, but Digital Leather adds its own crackling stabs of synthesizer and garage rock enthusiasm. Befitting an album obsessed with circuitry and robots, Sorcerer has a binary arrangement: The first half features Digital Leather honcho Shawn Foree working solo, while the second features Foree and a full band performing live at Gonerfest 2 in Memphis in 2006. The home-recorded songs are generally more minimal and subdued, but a lively cover of the Urinals' "Hologram" proves that the solo songs are anything but listless. The most notable track, "Modulated/Simulated" is the slowest and moodiest, evoking early Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Tubeway Army, as Foree sings mournfully of being unable to feel anything on his "robot skin." It's a sad little number, though not as sad as the fact that "She Had a Cameltoe," a rollicking, catchy screecher from the live set, is saddled with a title and lyrics more worthy of the Bloodhound Gang.
Luckily, Sorcerer has more songs like "Scar Me" and "Dance Til Dead," which balance dissonance and danceability. Digital Leather's brand of synth-punk is worth hearing today, even if it doesn't substantially add to yesterday's version of the end of tomorrow. (Goner)
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