Sound — 6
Klaxons have always been a dark horse in the music world, with a career that's been fueled by phenomena. At their inception, Klaxons would make their first mark on the scene by helping kindle the subculture of nu-rave; where the neon-clad, irony-laden hipsters could form a dance culture foil to the conventional nightclub scene of spray-tans and chic fashion. Years after their successful, reveling-in-kitsch, zero-f--ks-given debut album, "Myths of the Near Future," Klaxons would take a hard left turn artistically with their follow-up album, "Surfing the Void," which, while polarizing those who preferred Klaxons to stay as nu-rave oddballs, was a good display of Klaxons switching into composing indie music inspired by prog/noise rock; this would show that Klaxons were interested in making what they wanted to make, not making what was expected of them. Klaxons would take their time after that release, as well as taking a good couple of years to work on their third album, but now, just in time for summer, Klaxons have returned with their third album, "Love Frequency."
Whereas Klaxons made their hard left turn in the rock-heavy "Surfing the Void," "Love Frequency," makes a hard right turn back towards their dance music influence, and pay more attention to the synthesizers and drum machines than they do the guitars and organic drums this time around. From the opening track "New Reality," which boasts a strong chainsaw synth lead, to the punchy piano chords that pay tribute to classic house music in "There Is No Other Time," to the smooth, dubstep-rhythm'd "Show Me a Miracle," to the nu-disco-influenced "Out of the Dark," it'll take a few songs into the album before Klaxons finally decide to play their own instruments alongside the synth loops in songs like "Children of the Sun," "Invisible Forces" and "Rhythm of Life" - "Rhythm of Life" also utilizes a nice acid synth-line that further pays homage to vintage dance music. "Liquid Light" provides a break in the dance-tempo'd mentality seen throughout the album thus far, being an experimental, psychedelic synth instrumental; this will soon be juxtaposed by the tough, stompy chorus of "The Dreamers," though the warm organ synth and piano melodies will soon remove its sharp teeth. "Atom to Atom" pairs harpsichord-esque synth plucks with a resonant guitar line at the beginning, but in due time, the song drops into another indie dance song with strong synth patterns. Ending with "Love Frequency," Klaxons exclusively parade the synths one last time, but show off some nice synth layering and automations in order to provide a full-bodied finish.
While you could attribute it to the fact that the sound quality of dance-oriented music today is way better than it was in 2007 when Klaxons released "Myths of the Near Future," the real difference between the sound of their debut album and "Love Frequency" is the ethos behind them. With "Myths of the Near Future," Klaxons mixed their indie band sound with a kitschy dance flavor in a fit of being fashionably unfashionable, and with not much initially invested in this aesthetic, it ended up becoming a great cultural ROI. With "Love Frequency," Klaxons take themselves seriously in crafting their indietronica, which is a problem on two levels. First, their evident severity in this album is antithetical to the original appeal of their take on dance music, so the novelty factor is absent in this album - it's like comparing an outfit that was jokingly arranged from second-hand clothes at a thrift store to a vintage Urban Outfitters outfit that is consciously engineered to give off a shabby, carefree vibe. Second, the "taking it seriously" approach throws Klaxons into the rat race with the many other musicians that have been and are still making indietronica, and in tandem with the fact that the Klaxons novelty is absent in "Love Frequency," it fails to sound like something really different than the indietronica that's been being produced for the past few years.
Lyrics — 5
Further appealing to the heavy dance elements in the album, the swirling synths in "Love Frequency" will end up evocating more things to you than the lyrics will. Lyrics found in the album are mainly engineered to be simple, catchy, and lacking in substantial denseness. In their earlier albums, Klaxons accompanied their music with lyrics that were imaginative and a bit absurd, as if they were inspired by drug-induced visions. They try to keep a hint of surrealism in the lyrics this time around, but it fails to do justice - songs end up tracing back to the standard dance music theme of unity, and in the place of new verses with more lyrical imagery or narrative, lots of sections are just filled with repetition.
Overall Impression — 6
With "Love Frequency," there's a palpable difference in the way it was made compared to Klaxons' previous albums. With "Myths of the Near Future," Klaxons were newcomers, and they provided something that people didn't even know they would want, and ended up starting an indie music trend. With "Surfing the Void," Klaxons went a different way with their music, disregarding those that wanted more nu-rave, and still made a satisfying album. In the time Klaxons waited and patiently made "Love Frequency," dance music was sweeping the world; both in the mainstream and the indiestream. From Daft Punk's awakening, to the commercial-jingle-composers-turned-indietronica-breakouts Capital Cities, to contemporary EDM juggernaut Zedd collaborating with pop-punk princess Hayley Williams, all signs pointed to dance music being the item on the menu that everyone was ordering, and it's not hard to realize that Klaxons methodically tailored "Love Frequency" to fit the popular appetite - a move that conflicts with the way Klaxons have gone about their music career prior to this. This new catalogue of indie dance tunes from Klaxons can't even be considered a proper return to their indie dance side, because when they began making indie dance music, they were on the forefront of a trend, alongside other influences like MGMT and Justice; now, they've re-boarded a train that hardly has any room for them and is probably nearing the end of its line. Klaxons still know how to craft feasible beats that get the job done, so the album isn't a total bust, but the most disappointing thing about "Love Frequency" is that it's the safest and least distinguished album they have made.