Tuesday 14 April 2015

Review: Sister Machine Gun – 'The Future Unformed'

'The Future Unformed'

'The Future Unformed' marks the first release from Chicago industrial rockers Sister Machine Gun since 2003's 'Influence'. The veteran band were on of the defining Wax Trax! acts that served to put the label on the map before they moved to their own Positron! Records for their last three outings. The band officially called it a day in 2007, but last November a teaser appeared on the Sister Machine Gun Facebook page and founder Chris Randall stated on his own page "Remember that thing I said I'd never do again? Yeah. I'm doing it. Spring '15 on WTII Records." Fast-forward and 'The Future Unformed' has arrived as promised. And with it some seriously high expectations.

Unfortunately the five-track EP may not be the revelation some were hoping for. It is evident Randall and co. have been consciously trying to update the SMG sound for 2015, but the end result is something that is a little unsure of itself. The band's approach lacks the innovation and grit of their earlier work, and plays it safe with some fairly standard song writing exercises.

The opener 'Insect' is a promising kick-off with its chugging guitars, big chorus and classic squelching synths, but it doesn't reach the heights of tracks like 'Addiction', 'Burn', 'Nothing' and 'To Hell With You'. 'Coldstar' fares a little better with it's subdued bass-heavy underbelly and atmospheric guitars creating a genuinely interesting and captivating track.

'Protest' has a nice dance pace and some memorable synth bass running through it, but it ultimately sounds like a demo from the 90's that has been dusted off and re-appropriated to fill a gap. 'Subgod' as well returns to the Wax Trax! sound of yesteryear with a more modern dance flavour thrown in for good measure, but again it sounds quite dated. The EP finishes up with 'Closure', which attempts to inject some frenetic rhythms and add a little bit more of an experimental feel, but just feels like it is pulling it's punches.

On the upside to all of this though, Chris Randall's vocals sound brilliant. His semi-spoken, semi-growled words cut through the songs and give them their only real bite.

Production-wise it is passable. With the dated construction of the songs, they could have gone two ways and one, injected a ton of grit or two, gone for some serious spit and polish. And this is somewhere in limbo between the two with it lacking the dynamic range of modern works and the punch of their previous outings.

'The Future Unformed' is a bit of a frustrating listen. The songs sound dated, and the whole affair feels like a half-hearted nostalgia kick. With the likes of Cocksure and My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult releasing albums recently that are unapologetically proud to evoke the Wax Trax! sound they have injected new life into the old beast. Whereas Sister Machine Gun seem to be trying to mix the best of their old sound with something new, but missing the mark on both points. It is more of a false start than a verifiable comeback. 

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