Apollo 440 – The Future’s What It Used To Be
Well, I didn’t expect that. More surprising than Rafa or Germany losing is the return of Apollo 440. Nine years after their last album comes a new one. Just like that. After all this time, can it be any good?
Apollo 440 were formed way back in 1990 by Trevor and Howard Gray with fellow Liverpudlians Noko and James Gardner, although Gardner left after the recording of the first album. Their peak commercial years were 1997-99 when they had huge hits with Ain’t Talking ’bout Dub and Stop The Rock (albeit that their creative peak had been 1994′s brilliant Liquid Cool). But their commercial success saw those dance fans seduced by Millennium Fever and Electro Glide in Blue turned off and they became subject to a law of diminishing returns as their brand of dance rock fell out of favour. More history here.
None of which explains why they’d return after spending much of the recent years doing soundtrack stuff. They’ve not exactly hit the interview circuit for this new album. Meaning I’ve no real idea what converted a renewed desire to play live into an album.
The album opens with The Future’s What It Used To Be, a big, brash, anthemic, breaks and guitars assault – like they’ve never been away. Like the last nine years have been a blink of an eye. Smoke & Mirrors is more high energy stuff but with added rave piano. Lyrics of the “you’ve got your finger on the cosmic trigger” rather let it down. A Deeper Dub was the preceding single from 2011 and is a dub rock anthem. The pace finally slackens with Love Is Evil whose piano and wailing guitar gets perillously close to psychadelic blues rock. Odessa Dubstep ratchets things up again with some breaks and electro peaks. Reminds me of Back To the Planet – for those with long memories. Motorbootee goes for dance rock funk. Not very successfully. Meanwhile, 70s heavy rock comes to the fore for Traumarama. Things calm down again for Fuzzy Logic with its unsettling sample talking about Aleister Crowley, albeit that it all goes a bit Queen for the ending. Music Don’t Die’s keyboard intro reminds me of Baba O’Riley. But it’s that point in the gig when flames whoosh up from the stage and glitter bombs burst. And perhaps that’s the problem, this album presumably comes out of the touring experience and it’s a gig encapsulated. Live, this should be great. There will be much jumping around and merriment. Meantime, here at my desk in small doses it’s great fun, especially The Future’s What It Used To Be and Smoke & Mirrors. But the whole album is a bit much to digest in one go. I’d quite like a Stealth Sonic Orchestra remix of the album please.
Blurb: Apollo 440 burst onto the electronic music scene in the late 90s with their first release, “Electro Glide in Blue.” The leading single from that album, “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Dub,” which sampled an iconic Van Halen guitar riff and mixed it with drum and bass elements, reached #7 on the UK singles charts. Two years later, their next single “Stop the Rock,” a blues rock anthem infused with elements of dub and ambient, went to #10 on the UK singles charts and was also featured in the FIFA 2000 video game for Playstation and the American film “Gone in 60 Seconds.” Apollo 440’s aggressive, rock-inspired brand of electronica became widely popular. Along with contemporaries Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers, Apollo 440 helped to pioneer a new genre that would later lead the emergence of dub step. Apollo 440 now returns with the release of their fifth studio album, “The Future’s What It Used To Be.” The album is the first from the group in almost 10 years, but Apollo 440 pick up right where they left off, with a package that’s full of the same kind of high energy, dub-infused electro-rock anthems that made them famous earlier in their career. The lead single from the collection, “A Deeper Dub,” is a reworking of the C + C Music Factory’s single “A Deeper Love” and harbors an infectious beat and a captivating chorus similar to past Apollo 440 hits.