I’ve written a couple of times before about Australian duo The Presets. They captured my imagination a while back with their single Ghosts and so I tracked down some of their back catalogue. It’s variable – there’s a lot of fairly meaningless and pointless noise, but there are also some great songs peppered throughout, and their second album Apocalypso is another example of this.
Apocalypso opens with Kicking and Screaming, literally. The track bursts with loud drums and evolves into an oddly quirky acid-flavoured sound. I think I’ve accused them before of allowing style to win over substance, and that is slightly true here too – it’s a good track, but it is a little lacking in melody.
My People is better, charged with Basement Jaxx-style energy and big noisy synth sounds. It is more of a song too, with a much stronger melody. It’s followed by A New Sky, which starts off nicely, but ends up with long acid sections with chanted vocals that don’t really appear to be going anywhere in particular. Unfortunately this isn’t unusual for The Presets.
Things start to look up with This Boy’s in Love, which more than makes up for the failings of the first few tracks – it’s truly exceptional. Again, when they do what they do well, they do make a good job of it – it’s a well delivered track with a great melody, and it’s complemented by throbbing electronics too. Brilliant.
You would probably guess that the same isn’t true of the next track with a title like Yippiyo-Ay, and sure enough it’s another of the many which are nice, but would probably work better live. Talk Like That, despite starting with a verse of just “oh-oh” repeated ad nauseam, does have an extremely good chorus. Eucalyptus doesn’t have anything particularly special about it, but as before it’s nice enough to listen to.
Then comes If I Knew You, the second of the exceptional tracks on this album. It does sound a bit as though it belongs in the late 1980s or early 1990s, but that’s no bad thing whatsoever. The lyrics are confusing, which either suggest that I don’t know the band very well (which is true), or that they just make words up as they go along (I suspect this may also be true), or both (very probably). When the vocalist screams “I’m always learning things the hardest way,” he may not do it particularly well, but he does do it with feeling.
Together is another triumph of style over content, and the last couple of tracks are better but aren’t remarkable. Aeons is the only thing on the album which is even approaching downtempo, and is all the better for that, but still suffers from a slight lack of melody in places. Anywhere is pleasant, but also lacks that certain something.
For all its failings, Apocalypso does have some rather good moments on it, and at its worst it is at least an interesting listen. They’re not great lyric or melody writers, and neither are they always the most interesting instrumentalists, but every so often, when all the clouds align, they do manage to come up with something rather good.
You can find Apocalypso in all the usual locations, including iTunes.