Emperor Penguin

Extreme Gaming

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On Extreme Gaming, their second album within a year, the prolific Emperor Penguin returns with more DIY electro-funk. Over the course of 18 songs, the duo incorporates the cheesiest of synths, robotic beats, and witty samples into a fun and eclectic -- if somewhat long -- romp through electronic music's campy side. Emperor Penguin's sense of humor runs riot throughout Extreme Gaming (though the album's title certainly gives fair warning), particularly on songs like the faux-majestic space capades of "Phantom of the Gay Opera" and "Cop Show," which lovingly sends up the synth-driven theme songs of '70s shows like "CHiPs" and "The Rockford Files." At times, the overt silliness threatens to overshadow some of the group's better moments, like the spooky trip-hop of "My Lunar Rover," the Teutonic-tinged "Werkout," and the album's prettiest track, "Streets and Stars," which pits a naive acoustic guitar melody against synth strings and a muffled, mechanical beat. For the most part, though, Extreme Gaming's knowing cheesiness is a lot of fun, especially on tracks like "Federation Funk," "Glamour Hammer," and "Original Tracks," which show off Emperor Penguin's trademark bubbling synths and canned beats. "CompuFunc" throws cool Bruce Haack and Lucia Pamela samples into the mix, and "Easy Listening" puts '70s soft-rock into and endless -- and witty -- loop. The only problem with serving up 18 tracks of sly, homespun future funk at once is that toward the album's second half, songs such as "Superstation Overdrive" and "Superior Fabrics" start sounding repetitive even if they really aren't. Still, there are enough entertaining moments in tracks like "Doobah," "Big John '99," and "Tammy" that it's difficult to find any particular song to cut. Overall, Extreme Gaming is a creative, entertaining album, even if its tendencies toward ironic, electronic parodies become somewhat frustrating. From the sound of this album, though, it seems that Emperor Penguin is just hitting its stride.

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