Polysics – We Ate The Machine (2008)
Back in my rabid POLYSICS fandom days, I had the pleasure of following the buildup to this album’s release and being very pleased when it came out. It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been 8 years since it came out! Luckily for potential listeners, We Ate The Machine is arguably POLYSICS’s second peak, after the superlative ENO. It’s certainly a more streamlined recording (usually abstaining from the brightly colored nonsense of the band’s early days); one that showcases some of the band’s most accomplished pop songwriting. However, it also excels at the loud, noisy, arguably insane part of POLYSICS’s formula that drew me to the band in the first place.
Most of We Ate The Machine‘s distinguishing characteristics come from it being a sort of stylistic compilation, at least if you ask me. Were I less experienced with POLYSICS (yet somehow still myself in the process), I’d expect something more along the lines of 2002’s For Young Electric Pop, which was simply an intentional turn towards the mainstream. This album doesn’t merely diverge from that by doing the ‘loud fast rules’ thing, but goes a step further by synthesizing both strains of songwriting into a whole. Now, POLYSICS has never really done anything but pop songwriting, and combining two types of pop songwriting is not hard (don’t let anyone tell you otherwise), but it does reflect well on them that they succeed, resulting in a nice mix of accessible pop songs with a similarly accessible harder edge, and better organized, more coherent blast fests.
Objectivity is going to get me nowhere here, since so much of my affection for this album is based in my personal experience with it. There’s even a couple of interesting stories I could tell – for instance, a POLYSICS fanboard I followed at the time had mixed feelings as the singles came out but quickly came to like it once they heard the full album. This was also about the time that Myspace was trying to enter the music business, and they apparently took on POLYSICS as one of their flagship acts, alongside some indie pop stuff you don’t remember anymore; they actually got the band to translate two tracks from this album into English. Not sure how I feel about those renditions, although this band wasn’t exactly strangers to occasionally writing English lyrics. Most of my readers aren’t going to connect with this on that deep personal level, but if you’re into poppy synthesizer driven noise rock, you should at least get some enjoyment out of We Ate The Machine for its mastery of the form. Who knows? You might get some interesting stories out of it, too.
Highlights: “Moog is Love”, “I Ate The Machine”, “Pony and the Lion”, “Dry or Wet”