As with Metronomy on Monday, I’m going to have to confess general ignorance of the Danish band WhoMadeWho. Along with “The English Riviera”, though, I’ve been playing this one a lot for the past week or so. Not least because, in a world without LCD Soundsystem, “Knee Deep” works as a pretty useful substitute.
I think I said something similar with regard to last year’s Shit Robot record, but WhoMadeWho seem to be tapping into a slightly darker side of LCD: great arpeggiating waves recur again and again, as if extrapolated, perhaps, from “Someone Great”. It’s a curious album, in that just after halfway it becomes a series of remixes of one track, “Every Minute Alone”, but there’s a driving intensity and cohesion throughout which makes it all hang together, however implausibly.
The LCD optimal point occurs around the middle of “Knee Deep”, with “All That I Am” (that arch, gruff male vulnerability, as well as the pulsating music), and “Nothing Has Changed” which, from memory, clicks off a little like “On Repeat”. And while I’m aware that relying on Wikipedia for facts is a risky game, the claim there that Queens Of The Stone Age have covered a WhoMadeWho song in the past has a certain logic to it.
In fact, it made me think of Josh Homme and James Murphy as very similar figures: bright, obsessive, self-aware alphamales of a certain age, capable of streamlining a wealth of musical knowledge into immensely focused, drilled jams. WhoMadeWho might notionally orient themselves closer to techno than rock (“Knee Deep” comes on Kompakt, traditional home of clean lines and aesthetically-elevated electronic minimalism). But if Homme often strives to give rock a robotic imperative, WhoMadeWho seem to be heading towards the same place, more or less, from the opposite direction.
That’s most apparent on the original mix of “Every Minute Alone”, insidious enough as it is, without being worked through four more versions before the end of the record. Best of all, though, is “Two Feet Off Ground”, which ramps up the steely arpeggios even more (early Underworld, maybe?), and adds a lead vocal from Tomas Hoffding which recalls both Murphy and also David Gahan.
Can’t say I’ve ever been much of a fan of Depeche Mode, but “Two Feet Off Ground” is more or less how I always hoped some of their deeper tracks might sound: crisp and forceful, with a little gothic set-dressing, and with a nagging tune beneath the synth waves that betrays a muscular pop upgrade. If anyone knows their way around the first two WhoMadeWho albums, let me know; pretty intrigued right now.