The Violent Blue
Electric President, the Floridian duo of Ben Cooper (Radical Face, Astronautalus) and Alex Kane, had pretty much perfected the kind of drowsy, bedroom indie electronica that sent artists like the Postal Service and Owl City into the iPods of young listeners by the time The O.C. featured their song “Insomnia” in 2006 off their Morr Music release, S/T. For The Violent Blue, however, their third full-length (and first on Fake Four Inc.), their music had taken a decidedly more organic turn. It’s not that the shuffling electronic beats and the synthesizers aren’t here. but they’re buried–nearly hidden at times–behind layers of guitars (both acoustic and electric) and swelling keyboard chords a la Son Lux or labelmate Boy In Static.
It’s all well done – Cooper is clearly a talented composer, and knows how to develop a musically interesting and intricate song – but it can also be too much, too heavy-handed. This is especially true for some of the more sincere-to-the-point-of-saccharine pieces that dot the record, like “Eat Shit and Die,” or “Safe and Sound” (“Call me and I will come and marry you,” Cooper promises in the near-anthemic chorus that will perhaps only appeal to those now no-longer teenage girls who still bemoan the death of Marissa Cooper). Still, there are redemptive moments here, when the pair moves away from the tight grip of perceived profundity and instead explores the neighboring realms. “Elegant Disaster,” for example, with its live (or at least live-sounding) drums and picked, staccatoed guitars, moves along at a nice clip, and is better for it, preventing Cooper’s overly-earnest vocals from sinking into emo territory. “Mr. Gone,” also builds into something rather nice in the course of its three minutes.
While Electric President does indeed show capability, the duo does not always show restraint – perhaps a fault of the genre: a nearly-inherent consequence of the fact that all the producing, recording and playing is done by the two of them in Cooper’s studio – and their songs have a tendency to drag on much longer than necessary. Weighed down with extraneous layers and drawn-out chords and sentimentality, sometimes it seems that they’re so concerned about creating a mood, they forget that sometimes the actual songs need to matter, too.