Proving that insincerity is as difficult to master as sincerity, Fight Like Apes’ third, self-titled album is a wry mess. The tracks feel empty and conflicted, as though the band are trying to make a pop record while simultaneously showing their ironic distaste for the genre and its trappings. Rather than submerging themselves in the world of electro-pop, they view their subject matter from afar with a joyless reserve and their fingers pinching their nostrils firmly shut, an attitude that neuters any chance the release had to be genuinely enjoyable.
A song like Pop Itch has potential, but in their haste to prove themselves to be more complex than their own material, Fight Like Apes turn in a track that isn’t a fun, catchy pop single, but isn’t an oddball piece of left-field electro either. It all feels rather considered and lifeless, and by neither embracing the mainstream potential of the song, or going full off the wall Ariel Pink, the band try to have their cake and eat it, with disappointing results.
Album opener I Am Not A Merryman pays a debt to both chiptune and electro pop, but lacks any substance, and its chorus rapidly begins to fall apart. I Don’t Want To Have To Mate With You might boast the album’s kookiest title, but it’s another predictable number that tries to experiment in ways that come to feel annoying and half-hearted rather than genuinely brave or visionary.
The Shillaci Sequence boasts the album’s strongest, most heartfelt vocal performance, but once again the band seem unwilling (or perhaps afraid) to embrace the simple pleasures the melody offers, and sabotage their own efforts by drowning the piece in half-baked nonsense. Even the messy heart of Didya feels considered and inauthentic; it’s all style and no substance, the musical equivalent of a pair of chunky spectacles filled with clear glass. There’s nothing fun or funny about a song like Pretty Keen On Centrefolds either, a track with a spine twisted from carrying the weight of too many homages – the work of Spencer Krug being an obvious touchstone – and a cheek bloody and punctured from too many stabs of the tongue.
Album closer Carousel is the most successful track – at times it almost carries genuine emotional heft – but the sum effect of the song is ruined when lead singer May Kay begins singing ‘satan’ over and over with all the wit of a child who has discovered a word that makes people turn their heads in church.
The record was made possible by crowdfunding, and the band has its fair share of fans: fans who will undoubtedly respond to Fight Like Apes positively. As always, if you like it, you like it, and this review is in no way meant to attack those who love the band, or the album. But from where this reviewer sits, Fight Like Apes is a collection of poses, rather than a record: it’s all empty, shallow posturing that doesn’t contain a single sincere (or indeed, even enjoyably insincere) lyric or note.