Scanners' 2006 debut album, Violence Is Golden, showed that they were capable of pulling off almost any style they chose: spiky pop, swooning ballads, witchy folk. Four years later, Submarine scales down their ambitions and streamlines their sound into dark post-punk with a slight folk tinge, as its first three songs show. “Jesus Saves” and “Salvation” meld chiming guitars with surprisingly lavish backing vocals, while “We Never Close Our Eyes” -- which sounds a little like PJ Harvey meets Metric -- is a tug of war between introspection and urgency that feels like the slicker sister of Violence Is Golden's excellent single “Low Life.” But while Submarine consolidates Scanners' strengths, many of these songs don’t have the same spark that their debut did -- the infectious thrill of hearing them trying on different sounds for size. Much of the album alternates between darkly breezy tracks like “Sick Love” and “Sleepwalking Life” and moody, slow-mo ballads like “Strangelovehate.” While Scanners do these sounds ably, Submarine buries the mischievous rock that provided some of Violence Is Golden's highlights (although “Half a Mind” does crank up the volume a few notches). Like that album, however, Submarine boasts a sharp pop streak that surfaces on the gorgeous “Baby Blue” and “A Girl Like You” and “Goodbye”'s barbed-wire hooks. At times, Scanners sounded like they didn’t know what kind of band they wanted to be on Violence Is Golden, but that indecision was more interesting, and more real, than the safe path they follow on Submarine.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares