English electro-alternative quintet the Ramona Flowers blend dense beats, synth-heavy instrumentation, and all the trappings of classic arena rock on their debut album, Dismantle and Rebuild. Some of the 11 selections featured here were included on previous singles and EPs -- the moody acoustic guitars and falsetto vocals of "Lust and Lies" and the jerky drum machines and spare dubsteppy bassline of the title track showed up in identical versions of the songs even two years prior to the album, setting the scene for this more filled-out collection of the band's highly arranged hybrid of electronic atmospheres and more traditional rock sounds. Vocalist Steve Bird's range often flutters between a large spectrum of influences, calling on the spirit of Bono for the album's more bombastic moments, more shy and indie-leaning tones on softer songs, and even dipping into a mode that marries the tortured mumble of Radiohead's Thom Yorke to a Depeche Mode-like sound on synth rockers like "Skeleton Key." The spare drums-and-bass intro of "Modern World" comes on like a strange jam session between the Cure in their earliest days and Kick-era INXS, blooming into a glowing and melodic chorus where organic instruments and soft synth pads mesh nicely. The album's production is handled by Andy Barlow of the like-minded group Lamb, and the album wraps up nicely with the gentle, trip-hoppy ballad "Like a Feather," featuring guest vocals from Lamb's Lou Rhodes, whose grainy low register provides a gracious counterpoint for Bird's soaring falsetto. With a sound falling somewhere between low-key, late-night indie fare and a seasoned arena rock act, Dismantle and Rebuild is a strong, colorful debut and points toward even better things in the future from the Ramona Flowers.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas