Electronic Rock duo Pop Empire has released its debut full-length, The Devil’s Party, available now for free download via The Recording Label Web site. The “all free!” label is the brainchild of Cameron Cochran, formerly of The Sheds and one half of Pop Empire (along with Henry Wilson). PE and labelmates Sacred Spirits (whose Some Stay was The Recording Label’s first offering) co-host a joint release/label launch party this Friday at the Southgate House with guests We Are Hex and The Kickaways.
On last year’s Rainy Child EP, Pop Empire introduced itself with an eclectic collection of slanted Art Pop built around solid songwriting and lathered in electronic experimentation. The Devil’s Party shows a shift in the duo’s sound, likely an evolutionary result of playing live shows and the simple process of becoming closer as creative collaborators. Though The Devil’s Party is still loaded with diversity and dynamics, the album shows a bit more focus and the creamy Rock & Roll heart at the center of it all is on display more prominently.
Among the album’s 12 tracks are several instrumental interludes where Pop Empire’s more adventurous sonic tinkering comes out. The between-songs tracks seem to serve as a means for the duo to get the wilder experiments out of their system instead of overstuffing the actual songs with too much.
That’s not to say that the songs on The Devil’s Party are devoid of unusual textures or sonic quirks. Putting more emphasis on the Rock & Roll aspects of the band’s music results in the swaggering guitar riffs and Wilson’s expressive vocals (he sounds a bit like Gaz Coombes of BritPop faves Supergrass at times) being front and center in the mix, while the exploratory elements wind in and out with a bit more subtlety. Songs like “True Believer” and “The Devil Was a Preacher” show Pop Empire’s love for classic Rock & Roll, recalling everything from The Rolling Stones to the glammier strut of David Bowie or Marc Bolan. “Like a Body” could be a T Rex outtake had Bolan recorded an album after receiving a shipment of the latest (in the ’70s, at least) synths and drum machines, while the propulsive “Hail Holy Light” picks the pace up to almost Punk levels, matching thick, fuzzed-out riffs with spacey synth leads and hyper electronic beats. “Love Set Me Free” is the album’s biggest nod to Pop Empire’s vintage Synth Pop influences, but the duo still infuses the track with smokin’ guitar leads and a proper amount of dirt and grit.
The Devil’s Party sounds like a band defiantly tightroping between two distinctive approaches and sounds. The same material could be played by four scruffy young Garage Rock kids or a couple of poofy-haired British synth players from 1982 and still be engaging. But it’s Pop Empire’s way of artfully bridging the gap that makes The Devil’s Party so unique and captivating.
Click here to download the album now at no cost.