The husband and wife team of Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry clearly have a lot of love for each other. You can effectively sense it in their music and it suggests a confident nature that allows the two to play off each other in an interesting manner. Perry’s 80s-inspired synths go hand in hand with Boeckner’s nervy, sometimes mighty and aggressive guitar and wolf-like vocals. The two gel with fluid ease but sometimes, that confidence takes over and buoys on audaciousness.
There is nothing wrong with the style of music they have created. Everything is set up around an outstanding melody, traces of electronics are added, Boeckner then fulfills his guitar part and somewhere along the way, the singing is united. And believe me, the music is good-for the most part-but too much of a good thing, can be a bad thing. With Face Control, the duo let on that the ideas are running thin and it’s easily felt on their sophomore response to 2007’s gritty, Plague Park.
There are three instrumental tracks on here and they function as chapter breaks and segues into different stories. “(Passport Control)” is a straightforward drum machine and reverberating-affected piece, “(White City)” features sounds from the orient and “(It’s Not Me, It’s You”) is a covertly titled song that is all haze and no substance. They’re all a minute and a half long but their purpose is confusing. They don’t distinct between diverse styles, they don’t initiate new tempos and they don’t really offer much.
The most stimulating and upbeat sounds come during the first half of Face Control. “I’m Confused” is without doubt the album’s best song. It has Boeckner screeching away on his guitar as he sings, “I hope this life don’t get you down…sometimes we get confused.” And to complement, Perry serves up some of her catchier beats and synths to date. Then there is also the mucky, “Evangeline,” an homage of fixture to 80s pop that slithers into a pulsating sweat of bite and bark (yeah, like the dog on the cover.) The best part comes near the end where Boeckner and Perry climax to a ferocious blend of gripping guitar and thrashing keyboards.
The real letdowns are left for the end with the redundantly safe, “Nyet Spasiba” and the monotonous melody and drone of “Officer of Hearts.” It doesn’t help either that the latter is the album’s lengthiest song at almost six minutes long. But one thing should be made clear, this is good music, it’s just too samey for it’s own good. There wasn’t anything splendidly convicting on their previous effort either but an authentic maturation or change of pace would have been especially nice.
All in all, “Radio Kalininbrand” closes the album with a much desired shove of energy and it’s enough to leave a sweet taste in your mouth. Through all of the missteps along the way, Face Control is a good album that with some more attention and ingenuity could have been so much better. But maybe that’s the problem, because we are fortunate to have artists like Boeckner-who determinedly release albums with one band or another every single year-where even their lesser efforts are well-accepted. It’s bittersweet but in the end, the prospect looks bright for Handsome Furs, as both music and love mates.
“I’m Confused” by Handsome Furs