Formation

Look at the Powerful People

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If you were to subscribe to the theory that, at this point in time, everything's a remix, then Formation's debut might seem like a Frankenstein's monster stitched together from the remains of 2000s-era dance-punk bands. Formation were already drawing comparisons to LCD Soundsystem, a comparison they have embraced rather than worked to shed, but on Look at the Powerful People the bandmembers have expanded their homages, with track after track recalling a slightly different form of indie/dance nostalgia. First track "Drugs" has alarm bells written all over it, and not just for the glaringly countercultural title; it betrays the promising percussion and direct-to-funky bass as soon as lead vocalist Will Ritson presents his finest second-rate James Murphy impression. Instead of Murphy's effortless commentary, however -- and his tales of waking up naked in Ibiza in 1988 -- Ritson proves his worth by repeating the refrain of "drugs" over and over as if it makes him automatically cool. Perhaps that wasn't his intention; maybe "Drugs" is supposed to have a double meaning and instead make a statement about the subdued masses. If that's the case, then the message is too ambiguous, something that becomes a running theme throughout the album. Trying to discern if Formation are trying to make a point defeats the point entirely -- they do, at least vaguely, look like they are politically inclined, with plenty of jackets, chains, and raised fists on show. Admittedly, danceable indie has never been that dependent on clear political statements, and generally speaking, Formation's songwriting has just enough groove and momentum that their debut is likely to incite casual foot-tapping. On a surface level, the album fulfills its purpose, then, if not for the inescapable feeling that it has all been done before. The track list plays out like a who's-who of 2000s dance-punk, with nods to the likes of the Rapture, Death from Above 1979, and of course LCD. The only time the formula changes is on penultimate track "Blood Red Hand," whereby Formation apply a softer approach punctuated by loud, yet justified, choruses. As for Formation's plea to Look at the Powerful People, the temptation is to listen to some of their mentors instead, as many of the acts who have walked this sonic highway before have done so with much more swagger, a better inclination for a danceable tune, and an inherent dose of innovation.

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