Pendulum warned us they were going to change, and they did. In opening track "Showdown," they remind us about the flak they received from the drum and bass crowd concerning their crossover success with rock fans: "I know you thought Iíd sold my soul, but never told me to my face. I just had to leave you cold, and blow this shit awaaay." This is a most unfortunate statement for a band who aim to blend the dynamic power of drum and bass with the immediacy of rock, because, put bluntly, most asthmatics blow shit away harder than this album does.
"Showdown" is agonizing and incongruent, and therefore a highly unexpected opener from the band who penned "Slam," "Blood Sugar" and also somehow improved a Prodigy track with their remix of "Voodoo People." Donít worry -- I get the idea, itís meant to be incongruent. It fuses two opposing genres into a kind of duel, as the track changes focus and tone halfway through. Thing is, itĎs just too tepid to pull it off. The epic title implies an Old West gunfight, not "Brokeback Mountain." Pendulum have gone from music revolution to cowboy sodomy in one album, and I for one am a little upset about this fact.
The problems with In Silico are numerous: the beats suck, itís overproduced and there is too much emphasis on songwriter Rob Swireís vocals. Lead single "Propane Nightmares" has probably received most of this criticism for supposedly being emo and getting Radio 1 exposure. However, Iíd argue that when Pendulum veer off more to the rock side of things, they manage to salvage the album from complete failure. "Granite" is another success, but both of these feel like album tracks to a far greater single that just does not exist. They do rock very hard, but none of the more drum and bass-flavoured offerings compete with anything on Hold Your Colour. The ones on display here are repetitive and lack the impact Pendulum had previously mastered with atmospheric samples and cunning buildup. See: "Through the Loop" and "Girl in the Fire."
In Silico is supposed to mean "born of computers," as if their rock style is the offspring of aggressive industrial coitus and contemporary technological wizardry. As many other reviews have noted, this is exactly the problem. Pendulum used to be great because they made cool electronic music with the urgency of real instruments. Now they make lacklustre rock music that sounds like itís been fed through and corrupted by a word processor. The image of the Microsoft paper-clip appearing during production is almost too lucid: ĎI see youíre trying to fuck up your new album; how can I help?í Therefore appropriately, "Mutiny" is the most cringeworthy treat here, with an out-of-place guitar solo and a breakdown ripped straight from the Arctic Monkeys. Stupid paper-clip; why couldn't they have just written a letter instead?
Yes, I believed Pendulum were set to revolutionize music, and part of me still does. Ever since hearing "Cubanate" and "Econoline Crush" remixes on video game soundtracks, I've been waiting for a band to pull off awesome guitar riffs with electronic beats, and this should have been the album to perfect it. It is not. This is made even more humiliating by the fact that they actually get so very close with "Granite" and "Propane Nightmares," and then itís downright annoying when we hear how the album closes. "The Tempest" is exactly what I was hoping for, and may be one of the best things youíll hear all year: a perfect fusion of multiple genres that illustrates Pendulumís power as well as the void that they could fill. For me, these three tracks make the album worth the purchase, but itís not enough to put the band where they should be, and for this they deserve to be punished.
Born of machines? Methinks this one should have been aborted. If I ever meet Rob Swire with his laptop, Iím pushing him down the stairs.