Rosa Mota

Bionic

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AllMusic Review by

Rosa Mota's second album found the band getting the Steve Albini treatment on production, which at least on a number of songs unsurprisingly finds the quintet even more brusquely rocking out than before. To his credit and the band's, though, it avoids a slew of the paint-by-numbers nature of his mid-'90s production work -- at the least it doesn't feel like either he or the band were aiming at whatever Bush was trying to do in the same year. Ian Bishop and Julie Rumsey again were the core of the group as performers and singers, with Bishop taking a slightly more prominent role (or at least bringing out a bit of a gasping rock & roll growl at points). With Rumsey's sometimes sweet, sometimes sharp voice as a counterpoint, songs like "Scenic Layby" and "Sometimes Narcoleptic" can and do make their points in a series of short, sharp shocks with sudden and sometimes surprising time changes (the latter might be the band's best song ever, a multi-part epic that still sneaks up as much as it roars). It isn't all explosiveness, though, and the orchestrations at various points -- from a quartet rather than a standard Brit-pop orchestration, thankfully -- add some often addictive melancholy to songs like "Frostbitten" and "Angel." The calmer, almost winsome start and verses of "Victoria Falls" help set up the suddenly affecting climax, when both singers and band crank up the volume while keeping a heavy ballad feel to it all, finally concluding in a mournful string part. The closest the group has gotten to skipalong power pop, "Space Junk," could have been a left-field hit here and there perhaps, unexpected given the group's other work but it's just that catchy and enjoyable on its own merits. Meanwhile, in one of the more unexpected cameos of the time, none other than Altered Images' Clare Grogan contributes vocals to "This Grudge," a song that won't have anyone thinking of twee wishes for happy birthdays at all.

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