In 1994, The Grid were at their creative peak – Texas Cowboys, Swamp Thing, and Rollercoaster were riding high on the charts, and the album Evolver was one of the biggest dance albums of the year. After their singles compilation Music for Dancing the following year, they then promptly disappeared for thirteen years. Their reappearance in 2008 with Doppelgänger was, bluntly, a bit of a disappointment after all the wait. But now it’s ten years old – is it as bad as it seemed at the time?
It opens with 8 Miles from Memphis, an eccentric acid house piece that probably couldn’t get you onto the dance floor if you weren’t already there, but also wouldn’t drive you off it.
A lot of your feeling about this album will be contingent on how you feel about US-style house music, the understated, beatsy type of dance music that uses repetition and sampling to lull you into some kind of dance frenzy. Vibration is typical of this – it’s a pleasant house track, but alongside the likes of Rollercoaster or Diablo, you have to wonder quite where it’s going.
Some tracks are better than others – the subaquatic sound of Pleasure Control works well, whereas the one single, Put Your Hands Together, while occasionally reminiscent of 1990s-era The Grid, turns out to be a bit dull. But whatever the shortcomings of some of the individual tracks, the album as a whole is pretty good actually – Slinker turns up with its fun warping, and Pure Statik appears with more of a dreamy post-disco feel.
A standout track at the halfway point is Mighty Heroik, which sees the legendary Robert Fripp turn up to add his usual wailing, dreamy frippery. For the first time on this album, there are echoes of the past – it reminds me slightly of Floatation from the first album Electric Head – as well as outstanding new sounds. This is what The Grid should be.
The laid back period of this album also brings us Saturday, another pleasant, sweet, largely instrumental piece. Closer is oddly familiar – it sounds like something you might have come across somewhere else, a decade or so earlier. Then Three Floors Above You takes us back to the house tracks we had started with, but with much more of a late night feel.
That is very much the feeling with the latter half of Doppelgänger – after the energetic house of the first half, we’re now into much softer, gentler pieces – Feed Your Mind is pleasantly sweet, and Fools Rush in is actually my favourite track on here, a soft vocal piece that glides along pleasantly for four minutes or so.
Finally, we get the closing track, Be Here with You, and here we actually get a load of “doo wop wop” vocals and harmonising. This isn’t exactly what you might expect of The Grid either, but it’s definitely pleasant.
So Doppelgänger held a lot of surprises, some better than others, and it’s probably fair to say that it wasn’t quite up to the standard of their earlier albums. But it does have something, and it does deserve a listen.
You can find Doppelgänger at all major music retailers.