Album Review: Codename: Rondo by Ghostland Observatory
Mediocre, Based on 4 Critics
AllMusic - 60 Based on rating 6/10
No one can ever accuse Ghostland Observatory of opportunism -- not only did they emerge too late to jump on the electroclash bandwagon of the early 2000s, it's entirely conceivable that they -- with singer Aaron Behrens prancing around in pigtails like some misplaced glam rocker to cohort Thomas Turner's dance-rock beats -- got their asses kicked on a regular basis when starting out in their home town of Austin. And with the release of Ghostland Observatory's fourth album, Codename: Rondo, the perseverant pair has managed to last longer and create more music than most of the original electroclash cabal. Behrens and Turner are at their best when they're mixing a Suicide-like, post-punky drive with walloping Justice/Daft Punk synth hooks, and from "Glitter" to "Miracles," the album is heavily front-loaded in that direction.
In “Give Me the Beat”, a winning little song halfway through Codename: Rondo, Ghostland Observatory singer Aaron Behrens struts down the boulevard of some seedy nighttown. A “pusherman” offers him ups and downs, whites and greens; a guy in a Cadillac tries to sell him some hot jewelry; a pimp extols the services of Sheila and Jeanine (“Legs for days, they go both ways!”). To each of these characters Behrens politely replies, “That ain’t for me / Just gimme the beat!” Then the swinging electrobeat in question bounces him along on his merry way.
It's said that a rising tide lifts all boats, so the opposite would have to be true as well. Ghostland Observatory had been knocking around Austin for a few years prior to Robotique Majestique, but it was their first album to come out after MGMT blew up. Granted, what ensued was a label feeding frenzy only by 2008's standards, but it was a pretty opportune time to be in a duo whose main talking points were squealing synths, hair-metal falsettos, and a wardrobe that included capes.
There’d be no other way to really ever understand music unless one would experience it firsthand. Ghostland Observatory was the kind of group that presented something uniquely overdone: solid dance music that is both poppy and electronic enough to interest people. The last song (“Kick Clap Speaker”) off their latest album, Codename: Rondo, features the album’s absolute best moments; unfortunately, the preceding nine songs leave so much to be desired that you’d be lucky to make it so far.