Although the surprisingly intense Unexplained EP gave EMF's fans some clue as to the direction the band was going to take with its next album, Stigma still took many by surprise. A claustrophobic record filled with heavy walls of guitars, effects, and dark keyboards, Stigma is about as far away as possible from the sunny dance-pop of Schubert Dip. While that album hid some darker lyrical concerns under its bubbly pop surface, Stigma is almost entirely concerned with feelings of alienation from fame, love, and friendship. Opening with the blistering "They're Here," James Atkins' voice is almost unrecognizable behind effects and sampled female backup vocals that continually appear throughout the record to great effect. The true success of the record is that the band managed to push itself into more mature musical and lyrical territory without sacrificing powerful guitar hooks and dance beats. The arabesque guitar on "Getting Through" and the techno swirls on "Blue Highs" alone beat anything on their debut, and the near-ecstatic level of energy never abates until the final track, the amazingly potent "The Light That Burns Twice as Bright...Burns Half as Long." For a fan base ready for more "Unbelievable"'s however, Stigma was far from enticing and unfortunately sold less than hoped, leading to EMF's less-than-grand return to the foray of pop on Cha Cha Cha.
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AllMusic Review by Geoff Orens