Who says pop music has nothing to say about the World? There are sonic shades of anger expressed with nuanced degrees of subtlety on the new album ‘Psychology’ by London-based outfit, Protective Fences. What is apparent from the outset is that they are clearly unabashed in tackling the big questions.
That they do so with a sensitivity and understanding while remaining faithful to the norms of pop is to their credit and they use it as a vehicle for more controversial and dissentious content than is generally the case, seizing back a genre all too readily hijacked by the vacuous to impart sweet nothings. Several tracks prompt an examination of the problems outside our windows, demanding of us a forensic focus on the angst that modern life incubates subconsciously: where accepted truths are the fizzed messages that are delivered to us unremittingly, insidiously, subliminally by corporations and the authorities they serve. From news management and media manipulation of the masses “Talking Heads” through to the largest modern conspiracy theories: 9/11 “False Flag” means that subjects that few take the time to write or think about in the medium of modern pop are tackled with a deft touch here. The production is smooth and synth heavy, with layered vocals and languidly jangly guitar riffs, all of which combine to cleverly camouflage the gritty, thorny issues that hold the album firmly rooted in the here and now using incendiary lyrics to question us to delve deeper into the events that have shaped the recent epoch. There is fear and paranoia contained as the kernel of truth to several tracks, but also an urge towards hope and thought amongst almost incomprehensible helplessness.
Several tracks trade musically in the currency of the mid-80s. The difference being there is definitely more bang to the buck here than with most of the work from that era. This is a band fully aware of their musical influences whilst possessing enough intelligence to willingly subvert them. In places they are reminiscent of grimier, darker aspects of Berlin-era Bowie. In others there is a lighter, softer pop feel reminiscent of Talk Talk, all of which disarmingly set us up with a threat of more before plunging headlong into a tripped, laconic dance mood that does not feel too far estranged from Depeche Mode.
It is nice to hear from a group who have no problem using the medium of pop to say something. In an era where too often pop’s preoccupation has become bubble gum – taste manufactured, throwaway and almost instantly gone, Protective Fences spoonful of the sweet stuff is provided musically, while the lyrics provide the much-needed medicine. If pop truly is in danger of eating itself, it is nice to see a group willing to lace it with enough convulsive to ensure ingestion is not so saccharine-coated that it is swallowed thoughtlessly. Even considering the well-worn idiom ‘there is nothing new under the sun’ occasionally there are different ways to refract the beams and this album bends the perceptions by achieving that.
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