Art vs Science 'The Experiment'
Who's saying what
You don’t get to the top of the charts without making a few enemies. The Experiment is a record that plenty of people will dislike.
In fact, for far too long it’s been du jour to hate on the Sydney trio for alleged crimes against music; the same we allow many others to get away with. It’s something that’s easy to do, but often says more about the critic than the band or the music itself. ‘Magic Fountain’ cracked the top 10 in the Hottest 100? "People are morons". Art vs. Science moved to a headline slot for Field Day? "The organisers must be really desperate". In reality, Art vs. Science’s biggest fault is that they don’t engage with their detractors – at all. It makes sense; the snobs are not among the hordes of kids who flock to the band’s sets, flippers in hand, or pre-order their album in droves even though they could probably steal it online. The intelligentsia in this country have decided that Art vs. Science are any number of things, except talented or worthy of success. And that’s fine, because the music isn’t written for them.
To be fair, Art vs. Science are subtle like The Prodigy are subtle. They pen songs called ‘Sledgehammer’ which do exactly what they say on the label, launching wave after wave of finely-tuned synth bombs out the speakers and into your cranium. Even before The Experiment dropped, they were pros at this kind of aural smackdown; ‘Flippers’, ‘Take Me To Your Leader’ and ‘Parlez-vous Franacais?’ establishing their forceful sound and take-no-prisoners approach to delivering it. What’s changed between their EPs and their debut is not so much the style as the depth. It’s still loud as hell, but texturally, there’s a lot more happening. ‘Take A Look At Your Face’ might have just six words in it, but many more layers; varied keyboards, guitars, drum machines and bass synths, which mesh together to create the kind of relentless groove most bedroom producers could only dream about. That bass sound on ‘Magic Fountain’ didn’t come from a plug-in, and neither did the church-doom organs on ‘Finally See Our Way’. The album title fits, because these trademark sounds are the result of hours of live, sonic experimentation.
Fundamentally, Art vs. Science are geeky musos, and despite the staggering level of public recognition they’re currently receiving, that shouldn’t be forgotten. For the most part, they play keyboards, not guitars, and likely get more excited by discovering another weird effect than getting a good review in the paper or on blogs. Most of the lyrical content of the album (sparse as it may be) is situated firmly in the fantastical; magic fountains, space travel, new world order, meteors and always going higher, higher, HIGH-ER. More importantly, for fans of the band, you know, the bajillion of them in Australia and abroad, The Experiment has branched out from the Daft Punk disco formula that propelled the band into the limelight a few years ago. ‘With Thoughts’, with no discernible dance beat and star-gazing solemnity, is a quiet winner that shows where they might be going next, while ‘Heavy Night’, with its spaghetti Western guitar riff and swaggering vocals branches out to the left. That the album opens and closes with two songs that sound more like Art vs. Science and less like ‘Flippers’ than anything else is no accident. By bookending the suite of songs with a more new wave pop aesthetic still steeped in synths, the band free themselves of the categorisation machine that’s been boxing them in them for years.
Art vs. Science are not a flash in the pan; this has been obvious to this reviewer since they were loaning their solid-as drummer Dan Williams from Philadelphia Grand Jury and playing to twenty partially interested people at The Annandale many years ago. They remain fiercely independent, committed to their primary goal of making festivals fun (when there’s self-involved wankers like MGMT on the bill) and taking all of that energy and getting it down on wax. There is nothing inherently cool about this band, which is precisely what makes their success so cool. It’s not controversial or blog-hype-worthy or scenester; it’s entertaining, and that’s a feat in itself. At the time of writing, Art vs. Science are sandwiched at the top of the ARIA charts between a pop star who’s had her "look at me" videos banned on YouTube and a jazz crooner who’s most famous songs are covers. Packed from top to toe with fist-pumping, bass-throbbing anthems, the cheek of Art vs. Science might be the only thing saving the kids from utter blandness.
Chew on that for a while.
Join the conversation below