The Mechanical Forces of Love

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Medicine called it quits in 1996 after an incredible debut record and two very fine follow-ups. The reason for the split was the usual: creative differences. Main Medicine man Brad Laner moved on to other bands and projects, including the experimental techno-influenced Electric Company. At the urging of his pal Kid 606 (whose Tigerbeat6 label had released some Electric Company discs), Laner decided to resurrect to the Medicine moniker. Unlike with the original band's '90s albums, however, Laner does a fair bit of singing on The Mechanical Forces of Love. He has also eschewed the overdriven wall-of-guitars sound that the first edition of the band employed so stunningly in favor of synths and underpinned the songs with funky drumbeats. The new group also has a new lead vocalist, Shannon Lee (daughter of legendary actor/martial artist Bruce Lee), who is much more soulful than Beth Thompson, at times nearly crossing over to a hip-hop diva sound. Leadoff track "As You Do" sets the tone, skittering drum machines, glitchy synths, and Lee's almost funky vocals. On the rest of the record, Laner proves as willing as ever to coat his simple melodies in inscrutable noise and hazy atmospheres. "Best Future" is a fine example, as the folky melody is twisted by distorted vocals and features one of the few appearances on the record of the Medicine-like wall of guitars. "I M Yrs" also features guitars and distorted vocals; with its memorable melody and exciting arrangement, it is the track that calls to mind Medicine's glory days. Unfortunately, most of the songs on the record don't come close to reaching the heights of the first edition of the band: "Astral Gravy" is goofy up-tempo electroclash and "Sodden Rockets" an overblown mock epic in which Lee's overdubbed vocals come close to shattering glass. The only tracks that really sound good are the few with guitars in the mix, such as "Good for Me," which switches very nicely between moody verses to a knockout Beach Boys-on-Mars chorus, and the acoustic guitar-based "Whiz." Overall, the group comes off like a slightly more experimental Garbage, only without the winning hooks. Lee's vocals are unremarkable, the sound of the record is too busy and obtuse, and they just didn't write that many good songs. Even if they had, it's very hard to make a good comeback album, no matter how much you trick it up with newfangled sounds and weirdness.

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