Album Review: Shobaleader One: d'Demonstrator by Squarepusher
Acceptable, Based on 6 Critics
Drowned In Sound - 80 Based on rating 8/10
It’s not too often that we see Tom Jenkinson having to explain himself. As Squarepusher he has, for over a decade and a half now, nonchalantly thrown out some of the finest mind-bending electronica on offer in this world, but has very rarely been so open as to the thinking behind his work as with Shobaleader One. You see, Shobaleader One: d’Demonstrator’ is an anomaly.
A concept album that sticks straitjacket tight to its concept throughout, Shobaleader One: d'Demonstrator is a record of throwback electronic rock, with an R&B edge and synthesized vocals, performed by a hooded band -- and if Daft Punk springs to mind, it should. After a record of solo bass (titled Solo Electric Bass, Vol. 1), Squarepusher's Tom Jenkinson soon unveiled his next project: the masked foursome named Shobaleader One.
If anything exemplifies Daft Punk's ascension to both commercially viable template and honest-to-god artistic inspiration, it's Squarepusher chiming in with his take on the robots' sound. Put simply, it's hard to imagine Shobaleader One: D'demonstrator existing without Daft Punk and the generation of French producers the duo inspired. If the album's not a wholesale rip-off of DP's aesthetic-- there's a little too much of Squarepusher's fidgety programming and fusion-esque bass acrobatics for that-- then it certainly feels like a very thorough homage in places.
Squarepusher, Squarepusher. I could write a review about a time machine and how, if we had one, we could go and compel Tom Jenkinson to return to writing wonderful things. I could write a bizarre story like The Quietus did. I could copy Pitchfork; I think they got it right. But I’m not here to ….
Prolific English drum and-bass artist Squarepusher (né Tom Jenkinson) begins his newest album with “Plug Me In,” a track built on a slow, jaunting drum-line and a robotic vocal, before ripping into the energetic “Laser Rock,” a song full of futuristic samples. This is a statement of intent from the man: the album changes on every track, eschewing the sameness plaguing certain electronic albums, and choosing to vary genres as smoothly as possible. By the time that the closing track has concluded its schizophrenic barrage of drumming, the album has exhausted and enthralled its listeners, who will be ready to press rewind and live through it again.
Tom Jenkinson’s ‘with band’ album certainly has its endearingly eccentric moments. Alex Denney 2010 Tom Jenkinson made his name in the 90s as the kind of musician that’d give Vince Noir nightmares, melding virtuosic, hyper-asphyxiating D’n’B breaks with post-bebop and progressive funk tropes. Mixing coffee-table smarts with the kind of schizoid fare that wound up soundtracking serial killers’ innermost thoughts in Hollywood slasher flicks of the era, his output under the Squarepusher pseudonym was decidedly not for everyone, but it was at least unique.