The Will Smith based nature of this album is of prime of importance in the press release, so I feel compelled to make it a prime reference point for this review. So, is ‘OCTOPUS4′ as good as Will Smith? Well that depends. Is it as good as Ali? Absolutely not. Is it a lot better than’Wild Wild West’? Unquestionably. Is it as chest thumping as Independence Day? Almost. As inspirational as The Pursuit of Happiness? Not really. Will it be as timeless as The Fresh Prince of Bel Air? Doubtful. But it sounds as ridiculous, and as fun, as the fashion choices on that show.
To say an artist has fine tuned their sound from one release to the next can be to damn them with faint praise. It’s often a polite way of saying: ‘this is more of the same but it’s less objectionable than last time’. ‘OCTOPUS4’ isn’t the game changer a lot of people seem to be saying it is, but it is positively bursting with infectious, euphoric and exhaustively fun tracks.
This album is less aggressive than its predecessor ‘Polymorphic Code’. This partly thanks to an unexpectedly lush production and partly due to the dynamic shifts between the trademark mood changes being less sudden and abrasive. Though its not entirely obvious if that counts as excellent composition or good song writing.
The difference between the two isn’t huge, but it is important. The Algorithm are responsible for great, occasionally excellent, pieces of music but the ‘songs’ aren’t there in the same way that they are for other electronic/rock cross over artists like say Enter Shikari or The Prodigy.
The intensely dark and brooding ‘ピタゴラスPYTHAGORAS’ for example isn’t a sick and sadistic potential single like ‘Firestarter’ and ‘Discovery’ isn’t as entertainingly daft as ‘Sorry You’re Not A Winner’. On the other hand, The Algorithim isn’t associated with thick-headed student politics or pill popping dance hooligans so every cloud.
It seems odd that the most compelling elements of this album are the poppier ones. The unique selling point of this artist has always been the incorporations of more extreme elements, but the best stuff here is certainly the moments that are more straight forward and that are reminiscent of Daft Punk and their most melodic. These elements are constantly thrown into stark contrast by the heavier sections, which ultimately only adds to their charm. This time around the guitars are a much more organic component of the sound compared to ‘Polymorphic Code’, and it makes the whole affair much more convincing as a long-term artistic move and less like a novelty idea.
That being said, some of the metal moments are a bit cringe worthy. The occasional blast beats sound ridiculous, and not in a tongue in cheek way. Here they sound as childish and tired as they do on the most generic metal records. Which is a real shame, because it can serve to undermine just how sophisticated a lot of the other arrangements on this album are.
But ultimately I can’t help but feel that level of analysis is taking this thing too far. This is music that sounds like it was incredibly fun to make, and luckily enough, is incredibly fun to listen to. A shinier production job also makes it much easier to listen to this time around as well. Is it a game changer or a massive jump forward ? Not so much. But it is a fine tuning which has resulted in some fine tunes.
‘OCTOPUS4’ is released via Basick Records June 2nd