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Music Review

Pendulum: 'In Silico'

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Pendulum: 'In Silico'
Released on Monday, May 12 2008

Aussie drum and bass stars Pendulum are one of the most unusual success stories of recent years. The group's Hold Your Colour album went gold in 2005, managing to woo hardcore d&b heads and rocks fans alike. The Perth collective's musical formula was simple: rack up the BPMs, switch everything up to 11 and throw in a bucket of walloping great beats at every opportunity. For a generation of music fans sick of sappy James Blunt sorts and stylised indie bands, Pendulum's headache-inducing thrills were a breath of fresh air.

Three years down the line and the bar's been set a little higher for Rob Swire and co. Lead single 'Propane Nightmares' gave the group their first top ten hit, but its radio-friendly breakdowns and Spanish trumpets annoyed their hardcore fanbase. The band faced accusations of selling out their d&b roots just to get cosy with Jo Whiley listeners and earn a quick buck. Perhaps more pertinently, Pendulum's music just didn't sound like that much fun anymore.

In Silico is unlikely to silence the doubters, veering dramatically in quality from track to track. Opener 'Showdown', packed with rocket-powered synths and beats that could bring on a nosebleed, sounds like the greatest video game/action movie theme of all time. A soaring, spiralling mixture of rock, rave and heavy-duty dance, it's the album's undoubted high-point. Unfortunately, Pendulum fail to match its arm-flailing mayhem elsewhere.

The robotic guitar crunches and swirling electronics of 'Different' are so-so, while the fuzzed-up Daft Punk-style vocals of 'Visions' can't rescue the track from plodding mediocrity. Even worse is 'The Other Side', which sounds like the soundtrack to a cheesy romantic scene in a Japanese RPG computer game. These tracks are made all the worse by some truly horrendous lyrics. Sample: "Come on down to the other side, come with us through the gates of hell."

It's only when Pendulum return to the sounds and style of their debut that they really hit their stride. The bouncy 'Mutiny', which somehow manages to make drum and bass sound funky, is terrific fun, while the screeching head-rush of 'Granite' could probably knock out a small animal. Unfortunately, these giddy larks are kept to a minimum, with closer 'The Tempest' pointing towards the Aussie band's "mature" new direction. At just over seven minutes, it's the longest track on the album and also the most disappointing. In fact, Pendulum sound more like a US stadium rawk act than the dangerous thrill-seekers of 2005.

A truly mixed bag, In Silico has enough quality to surf the sudden wave of interest in hardcore dance - the one that helped German techno boffins Scooter to top the charts this week. Unfortunately, the band's determination to bring their music to the masses often saturates their sound, making them sound bleedin' ordinary. For a group once considered groundbreaking and radical, this record plays it a little too safe.

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