Once upon a time, a very long time ago, a band called Apollo 440 were very popular. After a number of EPs, their brilliant debut album Millennium Fever snuck out in 1994, but it was the singles Ain’t Talkin ‘Bout Dub and Krupa which carried their exceptional second album Electro Glide in Blue towards the top of the charts in 1997.
Gettin’ High on Your Own Supply followed in 1999, driven by the singles Stop the Rock and their theme to the movie Lost in Space. Their last commercial hit was in 2000 with their theme for Charlie’s Angels.
Their largely forgotten fourth album Dude Descending a Staircase followed in 2003, and sadly it isn’t great. It saw them exploring very different territory, such as hip hop and darker rock, and working with a variety of collaborators. Presented as a sprawling double album, it has some great moments, but as a whole it’s sadly a bit of a prog mess.
This seems to have left them a little confused, as we then didn’t hear a cheep out of them until the tail end of 2011, when the new single A Deeper Dub finally appeared as a taster for the new album. Finally, the album was released in the UK at the start of 2012, but it didn’t appear in the US until the summer, at which point it was released with absolutely zero promotion. I wonder how successful it was?
But The Future’s What it Used to Be opens with “Three words: tempo, tempo, tempo,” and immediately explodes in traditional Apollo 440 fashion into the rough guitar and beat-driven Stay Frosty.
I should probably explain something – traditionally, their music breaks into one of two main categories: rapidly moving, almost rock mixed with drum and bass; and very mellow beautiful laid back pieces. The album’s title track beautifully straddles both of these, kicking off with very gentle pads before taking us back to some of their most energetic beats. These continue with the wonderfully curiously retro sounds of Smoke & Mirrors.
The single A Deeper Dub follows – ultimately it’s not the best track on the album, but as always the energy is pretty addictive. But as with tracks such as Pain in Any Language and Heart Go Boom on previous albums, it’s often their downtempo tracks which are more compelling, and so when Love is Evil turns up the change in mood is extreme, but very welcome. For all its contemporary sound, it might not have been entirely out of place on a rock album from the 1970s, and this for me is Apollo 440‘s strength – they’re timeless, and clearly take their influences from very different places to a lot of acts of their kind, but they are also able to bring all this together into something truly wonderful.
Which is also a good adjective to use for the next track – for me by far the best track on the album – the wonderfully named Odessa Dubstep. To be honest, unless I’ve entirely misunderstood the genre (this is perfectly possible; I ain’t no spring chicken any more) I’d probably say it’s more drum and bass than dubstep, but the pun is entirely forgivable. From its Cossack-style opening, you can hear echoes of their earlier work, mixed with contemporary sounds and, well certainly a little bit of dubstep too. It would be difficult to hold a grudge against anything with this much energy, and neither should you try.
Later tracks Motorbootee and Traumarama are less strong for me, but as always on a weaker album they would probably put everything else to shame. However the final pair, Fuzzy Logic and Music Don’t Die are both absolutely excellent. The former is another slower track, with the sort of voiceover that makes you wonder what on earth you’ve been eating. The final track is a typically powerful closer which again wouldn’t have entirely seemed out of place in the 1970s. “Music don’t die, it just floats out to the sky…”
In summary, The Future’s What it Used to Be took a very long time coming, but I would heartily recommend it as a fantastic return to form for one of my favourite nineties acts. Welcome back, Apollo 440!
Incidentally, if you poke around hard enough, you can also find a completely free non-album track called Thank You for Nothing, which I would heartily recommend.
The easiest place to find The Future’s What it’s Used to Be is on iTunes here. If you’re buying tracks individually, take care not to pay a dollar for the 9 second track, as that would be silly.