When his debauched, more than a little scuzzy band Louis XIV split up in 2009, Jason Hill retreated to his fancy home studio, called in a bunch of friends from bands like the Killers and Mars Volta, and set about making an album that had all the low-down strut and smut of his previous band, but with an expanded musical vision and a lighter touch. To that end, Vicky Cryer's The Synthetic Love of Emotional Engineering is a success as Hill imbues the proceedings with plenty of slutty lyrical content, vocals that should come wrapped in plastic for your protection, and a general feeling that you're listening to the aural equivalent of the Penthouse Forum. To his credit, though, he manages to pull it off with enough goofy charm to make it seem silly and fun, rather than dirty, and even sometimes gets close to something resembling real feeling. Almost. And he only whips out the ultra-arch, clammily affected vocal style he used in Louis XIV one time, on the brief "The Lady and the Tramp," which is exactly the right amount of time it deserved. If he had stuck with the old vocal style while branching out into so many different styles, it totally wouldn't have worked. Instead, his nasally rock & roll croon can smoothly tackle outer space funk ("Touch You"), rocked-out disco ball jams ("Krokodil Tearz"), super kinky party rock that sounds like what Marc Bolan might be making if he had lived until 2013 ("Young Love"), a couple expansive downer ballads that last forever but never wear out their welcome thanks to his vocal quirks and way with a chorus, and a slice of funky metropolitan boogie that sounds tailor-made for a Mick Jagger solo album -- the good one he hasn't made yet -- ("Expensive Love"). No matter what avenue they travel down, Hill and his cohorts handle themselves with skill and formidable strength. Despite the sessions lasting a couple years and featuring a revolving cast, most of the songs sound like they were put down live to tape by a working band, which is a testament to Hill's production savvy. (It's no wonder that artists as diverse as Ariel Pink, the New York Dolls, and Macy Gray all asked Hill to work with them.) Vicky Cryer's debut is a real step forward from the thudding rock of Louis XIV, and The Synthetic Love of Emotional Engineering is a super hooky and fun rock & roll treat, filled with plenty of lighthearted sass and style.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra