Architecture in Helsinki are one of those polarizing bands. Some people absolutely love them, the quirky, eclectic, almost improvised feel of their previous three albums, the good times vibe and the tongue in cheek naivety of a group who just want to have a good time. Some people absolutely hate them, the lack of depth or message, a throw away pop attitude, and vocals that may not be everyone's cup of tea. However, their most recent release of Moment Bends seems to be pushing the band in a new direction, and while not 'new', it is at least a new direction for them.
Moment Bends is certainly an interesting record, especially when taking into account Architecture in Helsinki's musical history. Gone is the rawness and unpredictable feel of previous records, instead replaced with a heavy handed eighties era production more akin to Erasure than anything contemporary. The liberal use of processed synths, drum machines and subtle auto-tune, adds to the overall eighties through-back pastiche. Gone is the focus on sporadic percussion instruments, the tambourines and cowbells have been replaced by synths stabs and electronic bleeps. And this departure in production and instrumentation is what I think will divide fans. It is still definitely an Architecture in Helsinki record, but things are very different. Seeing as Moment Bends took four years to all come together, it appears that the band really delved into the use of the studio as an instrument. A lot of the original appeal of their early releases, was the almost amateurish approach. The vocals were rough and the instrumentation wild and unpredictable...these elements are gone. What has replaced them is still very good in places, but I get the feeling that those who were consumers of music during the eighties are going to feel a little confused. Tracks like 'Desert Island' and 'Denial Style' have such a strong Tom Tom Club influence that they could almost be reworked B-sides. And while tracks like 'Contact High' and 'Escapee' are well written and executed, the comparisons between contemporaries like the Tough Alliance, and less flattering elements of Wham and Franky Goes to Hollywood detract from these.
But it all comes down to the expectations of Moment Bends. What it does, it does very well. Despite comparisons, the album is after all, a pop record. And while some of the songs are at times so saturated with eighties influence, these songs are supposed to be fun! And while there is no denying that the album has a few dud tracks and the production at times feels impersonal and predictable, at least it is a realized work of pop music. Architecture in Helsinki are not hiding anything, they wear they influences on their sleeves. And so I give them big points for fun, catchy tunes so stuffed with the excess of eighties influence its hard not to be impressed. Unfortunately they also lose big points for a lack of spark and the unavoidable sense of deja-vu.