Arling & Cameron

Hi-Fi Underground

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After a long hiatus brought on by Richard Cameron's recovery from a broken back suffered in a van accident back in 2001 as well as each member pursuing solo avenues, Arling & Cameron's Hi-Fi Underground is a welcome return to action, if not quite to form. While not as transcendentally melodic, inventive, and silly as 1999's All-In or as conceptually note-perfect as 2000's Music for Imaginary Films, the record is well produced, the beats throughout are solid and fresh sounding, the basslines are suitably squelchy, and the melodies are cute and lightweight. As in the past, the duo expertly blends the guitars and bass of rock with bubbly synthetic textures and comes up with a winning hybrid of styles that works on multiple levels. Unfortunately, what doesn't work quite so well on Hi-Fi Underground are the lyrics and the vocals. Gerry Arling (or is it Cameron?) is at best a passable vocalist, and the guest female singers (including Princess Superstar) are a bit better; the problem is that they are singing some pretty brainless lyrics ranging from innocuous platitudes like "Love is just a game for you to play" on "Games" to howlers like "Get naked/Shake it" on the admittedly fun "Shake It." The lyrical gaffes and flat voices definitely distract from the listening experience, and unless you are adept at blocking out lyrics, the whole record may be a lost cause. If only all the tracks were as nifty (and lyric-free) as "Walk That Way" or the insanely catchy "Popcorn 2006," then the return of Arling & Cameron would be as welcome as a sunny day in the wintertime. As it stands, it's more like a mix of sun and drizzle.

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