Release Date: Mar 10, 2009
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
The trouble with Plague Park, the 2007 debut LP from the then-betrothed duo Handsome Furs, was that it never sounded like anything but a side project. And I suppose it was; chances are, if you know Handsomer Fur Dan Boeckner, you know him as co-marshal of Wolf Parade. More than that, though, Plague Park was far too long on mood and entirely too spare with the nervy buildups and outsized choruses Boeckner's provided to his parent band's records.
It’s a well-known curio of pop history that the synth-led sound of Springsteen’s wilderness years was directly indebted to the skeletal drum machines of electro-duo Suicide. Face Control, the new record by Handsome Furs (Alexei Perry and Dan-from-Wolf-Parade), sounds like Born in the USA, if the Boss had allowed a little more evil in the mix, and tried replicating Alan Vega’s demented yelps. Yeah, it’s THAT good...
Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry are insufferable exhibitionists when it comes to putting their love on display. If their promo pics are to be believed, their electro-touched art rock is made in the short intervals between wild fuck sessions. Still, there's no denying the chemistry between these two; it throbs all over their impressive new disc. [rssbreak] Boeckner deserves most of the credit, though.
On their 2006 debut, Plague Park, Handsome Furs were a (way) softer version of Suicide crossed with Bruce Springsteen. Epic, bleacher-reaching hooks were grounded by spartan drum-machine patterns and synth lines. The duo -- Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade and his now-wife, Alexei Perry -- was content to set the machines to “glacial” and hope the fireworks would come from Boeckner’s totemic guitar riffs.
Face Control is a difficult record to dislike, mostly because it so very rarely comes right out and demands to be liked. Dan Broeckner, freed from the inevitable concessions and dynamics that come from sharing the spotlight with Spencer Krug in Wolf Parade, has crafted a sparse and modest album that cares more about following its own artistic whims than pleasing others outright. And, against conventional logic, this turns out to be a good thing.
Similar to their 2007 debut, Plague Park, the Handsome Furs' sophomore effort is super moody and a little on the brainy side. Named after a practice common to upscale Russian nightclubs in which people are admitted based on physical attractiveness, Face Control places itself in a stark, scrubby, post-Soviet Russian landscape. And for anyone interested in that level of listening, Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry's haunting Russian storylines will hold some interest.
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.
Handsome Furs’ debut, Plague Park draped Alexei Perry’s programmed drums and synthesizers in her partner Dan Boeckner’s shaggy, distorted guitars and emotive singing. Like some science experiment in currents and thermal drafts, the band’s sound flowed hot and cold, but the warmth floated to the top. Face Control, by contrast, places stylish, strobe-lit club beats at the forefront.