Emperor Penguin – Damn EP

Emperor Penguin are one of the most unique retro meets futuristic electronic bands in recent memory. On every release, this duo of Lazio Minimart and Mel Stanke tries something new, all with a firm basis in the bleeps, bloops, squawks and assorted noises that keyboards, synthesizers, and computers are capable of.
The first two songs on the Damn are performed with the Live Expedition Squadron, assumedly Emperor Penguin’s touring group. And with the addition of drums, bass, and other traditional instruments, these songs take on a new, more organic and somehow more exciting feel. It’s always nice to hear a primarily studio band in a live – or at least full-on band – setting. The songs get a new, invigorated sense of life. The remaining two tracks are brand new studio works from the duo.
“Disco Party in the Castle of Love (Tonight)” is debatably the catchiest Emperor Penguin song yet. True to its name, this is a disco-style track, with funky vocals done through a vocodor, a furious beat, and a serious sense of groove. Apparently, this track had been a favorite of the band’s live shows, while the second track, “Echoes of Pumford” is actually a live version of a song off the band’s album, Shatter the Illusion of Integrity, Yeah. The non-computerized drums give the track a thick, ominous sound, and the high-pitched synthesizer squeals give it a futuristic feel. This song is crashing and powerful yet moody and textured.
The two studio tracks sound a bit more familiar for fans of this ever-changing project. “Neighborhood Watch (We Call Police)” is another of those grooving, funky tracks, with extremely thick keyboard lines, mechanized beats, and heavily vocoded vocals. They even mix in the sounds of a police scanner and some funky 70’s style guitar. If this one won’t have you grooving and remembering the days of roller rinks and middle school dances, you must be too young to understand. Finally, “Wizard Dude” melds funky, soulful keyboards with a thick beat and other synthesized songs. This could simultaneously be the theme to a 70’s blaxploitation flick and a modern Spike Lee joint. Funky and yet solidly experimental, this is cool stuff.
I can’t really get a grasp on Emperor Penguin, and I imagine the band likes it that way. With every release, the duo try something different, perhaps making them the most experimental while accessible band today. I know I look forward to every new offering from this prolific project, whether it’s to dance, to laugh, or to be amazed.