Stylex CD review [Friction]

Music Reviews
Stylex CD review [Friction]
Dec 20, 2002, 01:51

STYLEX Wonder Program CD

Pulling rock music's main “voice,” the guitar, and swapping it out for keyboards is always an affective gambit for grabbing attention. This simple substitution somehow shifts all tonal values and structural devices in a given genre even if that's the one and only change made. While you wouldn't think it, “punks” have pulled this very leg periodically. Case in point: the earliest days of L.A.'s underground scene were stalked by the all-keyboards-and-one-lonely-drummer band, Screamers. During grunge's “Hey!” Day, Six Finger Satellite appeared. In the near future, Mike Watt (who had SFS open a tour for him) is recording an album featuring bass, drums, and keyboards. And what about Ben Fold's Five? Indeed!

Stylex follow in this tradition. Their Wonder Program CD features songs that hurtle along at a healthily frantic pace. Most of the keyboard sounds deployed are pointedly obtrusive, either zany/kooky, or grating and distorted. Vocals are shrill/shouty. The affect is very punky despite lack of guitar explosiveness.

It all seems well and good in principle. But in practice, Stylex wears out their welcome almost immediately with one song after another blending into a tinny, tiny frenetic blur. Little memorable or especially identifiable surfaces from the plasticine, miasmic slurry. The individual selections tend to be rudimentary and very, very obvious in structure. Likewise the sound palette is neither distinctive nor especially imaginative—and with the menu available on even the cheapest synth nowadays, there just ain't no good excuse for it! Nonetheless, time and again, Stylex pick a setting, hit “start” on the drumbox and let rip—ad infinitum. On occasion, they will stack a few lines of differing timbre, which is a marked improvement. Even more effective variations include “No!” which boasts big ol‘ crunchy guitar riffing to offset serpentine keyboard lines, all propelled by savage live drumming. “Not 2 Night” introduces a boldly muscular bass line that strides forth with weighty anger whilst properly anguished keyboards revolve like a tornado's winds 'round the eye. More of this would have made for a “reet poteet” (as Cab Calloway would say) album! [Friction]

-Howard W.

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