SideOneDummy has been making a point of signing some unorthodox bands as of late. The release of VCRís debut full-length is only going to strengthen the labelís reputation as a place to go for a variety of punk and punk-inspired music that might be off the everyday radar.
VCR, a synth-punk five-piece from Richmond, Virginia, certainly stand out in their local scene, as they would in most scenes anywhere. The band consists of three keyboardists, a bassist, and a drummer. There are no guitars anywhere in sight, which isnít so much a gimmick as it is a logical conclusion that there simply isnít really any room for them. VCRís songs are dense electronic-driven pop-punk songs falling somewhere in between the respective realms of the Epoxies and HORSE the Band.
The Epoxies references are bound to come up as the band begins to tour heavily in support of the album. There arenít a lot of synth bands in the punk scene, and the Epoxies are the best known of the bunch. VCR are more aggressive than the Epoxies tend to be, which is great at first, but almost becomes too much by the end of the album. HORSE the Band references come from the bandís professed love for soundtracks to old Nintendo Entertainment System games -- something HORSE built a reputation on a few years ago. However, VCR is careful not to fly that flag too high, at least until the music starts.
Iíd love to check VCR out in a live setting. SideOneDummy claims to sign bands they love to watch live. In the touring-dependent reality of independent music, itís a smart move to make. When I saw the Epoxies last year I was quick to pick an album up after being greatly entertained by their live set. When it came time to listen to the CD though, I couldnít get into it. I feel the same goes for VCR. Their album is slightly overbearing after a few listens. That could be because Iím not a huge fan of synth-driven music, but I think itís more that it can be a little too much to take handle. Other bands on the label, such as Gogol Bordello, are amazing live -- but also on wax.
Had this review been written for a synth-pop/punk site it might have given VCR five stars. But this is a punk site, and as broad a scope as punk can be these days, VCR lacks the spirit they would no doubt have performing live than via a recorded format.