Thursday, October 23, 2014

Super Critical | The Ting Tings


★★☆☆☆

Album leaks: for artists and record labels, they're disastrous, but for a music fan pleading for new music like a relentless cat clawing at a closed door, they're great. In today's industry, it's not uncommon to see the entirety of an album spill a week early online via streaming websites, but English indie-pop duo The Ting Tings' newest effort, Super Critical, leaked unimaginably early; nearly three months sit between the album's leak and its official release date.

Super Critical follows the duo's sophomore album, Sounds from Nowheresville, which failed to meet critical and commercial expectations. The album peaked on the lower half of most major album sales charts and was slammed for being "deliberately bad" and "tuneless." (Minus "Hang It Up" and "Hands," I personally like to pretend that the album doesn't even exist.) Although it has never explicitly outlined as such, the title of Super Critical could definitely be a stab back at the reception of their previous album.

The Ting Tings opened their career on a light pop-rock sound on their uniform ten-track debut suite, We Started Nothing. After following some rocky roads, doing some self-exploration, and deleting a full album to start from scratch, they unveiled an alternative rock masquerade to their sound on Sounds from Nowheresville. Fast forward two years later, and they've now thrown themselves underneath the disco ball in a 1980s groove on this new record.

The Super Critical era began with the release of "Wrong Club," the love child of Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" and the Ting Tings' own "Shut Up and Let Me Go." (The band later recycled the same combination for "Do It Again.") Despite the palatable sound, the duo's fondness for underground indie static shows up through the song's lyrics as Katie White sings, "I'm in the wrong club, listening to this shit." Soon after the first single release, the title track of the album and "Only Love" were both released to boost some buzz. "Super Critical" features a low-riding bassline and a instrumental break full of drums, guitars, and horns, while "Only Love" is a forgettable blend of disco and indie pop. Disco finds its way back into songs like "Communication" and "Failure," but with lukewarm results.

On songs like "Daughter" and "Green Poison," the duo revisits the influences of that strange rock sound that they showcased in their last album; even with its nearly indecipherable lyrics, the former song prevails as a less disastrous affair. The album's only true ballad, the wobbly "Wabi Sabi," also fails to find its feet due to its unfortunate titling and initial vocal delivery. The song's drawing chorus and vocal harmonies does prove that it blossoms as it progresses, but no headway at the sound improvement is made until a minute and a half into the song; by that time, they had really already lost my attention.

Sometimes the success of the past cannot be replicated, and The Ting Tings are sadly a great example. We Started Nothing still stands as the duo's only worthwhile album, while The Ting Tings have continued to dig themselves into the ground with Sounds from Nowheresville and Super Critical. This new album is an improvement from their last effort, but just doesn't live up to the memories of "Great DJ" and "That's Not My Name." I held onto the hope that the band had just hit the dreaded sophomore slump a few years ago, but now I'm afraid that Katie White and Jules De Martino have simply just lost their touch.

Super Critical will be released on October 27, 2014 under Finca Records.

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