At first glance, Blaqk Audio seems like a unique and intriguing idea: A goth frontman from a notably successful, major label punk band pairs up with a cohort to form an electronic side project duo. Ohhh, but that's right: It's been done before.
But even if we take away the facts that Davey Havok and Jade Puget from AFI were about a year behind Matt Skiba and Josiah Steinbrick and that the types of electronic music vary significantly, it's hard to be entirely impressed with Blaqk Audio's debut. For even though there was clearly considerable attention to detail paid in the computer-generated sounds and rhythms, the final product is a mostly passive experience, with lyrics that are largely non-engaging.
The album's first single, "Stiff Kittens" comes out bumping, layered with synthesized instrumentation and the familiar bass & cymbal beat that puts Party Boy in Party Mode. The vibe doesn't last though, as "Between Breaths" unravels a vaguely industrial Nine Inch Nails disposition, while Havok shouts out his chorus: "You knew I knew the ways that I could make you say:
/ 'Please, please please don't take it... / Take it, take it, take it easy on me. / Just make it. / Make it, make it, make it harder to breathe.' / So I'll climb on top and I'll never stop / 'Till I make you forget who you are / And just feel." Despite that I coincidentally just watched snuff-fest Tesis last night, the gothic poeticism of "Snuff on Digital" doesn't inspire much emotion, though the XTC-driven synthesizers and heavy bass kick could potentially inspire pelvic thrusts and the Sparklemotion chorus may inspire a little nostalgia.
Though there are some unquestionably enjoyable tracks on CexCells, there is also far too much droning, insipid filler. Songs like "The Fear of Being Found," "Where Would You Like Them Left" and "Wake Up, Open the Door and Escape to the Sea" are not only no fun to listen to, but also take up a good portion of the album, razing the inertia and flow of some otherwise agreeable cuts. The closest Blaqk Audio ever gets to the modern rock sound of AFI is on the perplexing emo rock ballad "The Love Letter," which is unfortunately far more emo than it rocks.
Conversely, the best tracks on CexCells are "Semiotic Love," with an upbeat tempo and catchy vocals, and "On a Friday," with its varying tempos and some of the album's sharpest lyrics: "So let's cut clean to the sex scene / Drop the white lines 'cuz no one is clean / And this beat won't wait for you / Safe to say that you won't recall so / Let's just pretend nothing happened at all."
If nothing else, CexCells is a grower. Once past the electronica novelty and the idea that Davey Havok isn't singing in a hardcore band this time, there are a small handful of enjoyable songs here. However, the half-share of duds and sub-par lyrics makes CexCells a questionable -- if not disappointing -- debut for Blaqk Audio.