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We Are Here

[Meta Merge Un Recordings; 2010]

By ; March 5, 2010 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

For fans of synth-pop and dreamy melodies, Apparatjik is a promising prospect. After all, the melodic charm of Mew, the mainstream appeal of Coldplay and the solid foundation of Norwegian synth-pop mainstay A-ha can’t add up to anything too bad, can it?

Opening track “Deadbeat” should immediately dispel any worries of disaster; the gnashing riff and expected misty vocals from Mew vocalist Jonas Bjerre play off each other to interesting and unexpected effect. It’s not a particularly gripping or endearing song, but it’s kind of fun; it’s an interesting idea and it’s fairly satisfying. Unfortunately, that description fits the rest of We Are Here quite snuggly. The album is filled with little quirks and intriguing half-thoughts that are usually pleasant to listen to but fail to bare their teeth. This would be understandable if We Are Here were a true debut album, but each of the four forces behind Apparatjik have contributed to far greater, more fully realized projects. True, it would be foolish to approach this album hoping for a new Frengers or Viva la Vida, but it nevertheless remains impossible to wonder what could have been.

That said, there’s no reason to overlook this album. Most of the ideas here aren’t as fleshed out as they would be in a given member’s main act, but they are worth hearing at least once or twice. Although their lack of ambition is the main cause for criticism, there is a distinct silver lining. The little experiments and silly doodles that permeate the album, irrelevant as they may be, keep the album feeling alive and refreshing. On top of that, each member manages to demonstrate a sample of their established chops, with Jonas Bjerre’s trademark wistful and often beautiful melodies at the forefront. Honestly, there is not a bad song on the album, and most songs have their own little standout moments, none more so than “Snow Crystals.” However, fun side thoughts and a consistent flow of “pretty good” songs aren’t enough to make the album feel significant in any way. It’s intriguing to be certain, and by no means a waste of time; I would certainly be open to see if this group could step up their game and create something special on a sophomore album (they are undoubtedly capable of it), but for the time being it feels just a little lacking.

We Are Here is a lowest common denominator record that is consistently digestible but rarely as tempting as it should be. It’s a common theme among most “supergroups”; it sounds more like a few guys playing around in the home studio just for the fun of it, with relatively little investment in the final outcome. There’s only so much that can go wrong when individuals of such experience and success record something together, but when these individuals each have reputations built around great ambition, We Are Here can’t help but feel a bit disappointing in its simplicity and contentedness to goof off, fun though it may it be.


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