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Innerpartysystem's "Never Be Content"
Review of Innerpartysystem's new EP
Never Be Content
[Red Bull Records]
Formed by emo veterans Patrick Nissley and Jared Piccone of the band Thirteen Over Eight, Innerpartysystem rapidly climbed the ladders of success, from opening for Linkin Park in the U.K. just two months after getting signed by Island Records, to rocking Lollapalooza in 2008 to promote their first album Innerpartysystem. The band is now on tour again promoting their EP Never Be Content, and is expecting to release a full-length album this summer.
Innerpartysystem takes a unique approach by fusing electronic party music with dark lyrics. Their first album is characterized by dense, complex layers of synthesizers that perfectly complement the over-driven sound characterized by rock music. The verses' heavy-steady beats flow into ethereal choruses, while the electro bridges and numerous chopped-up samples and noises add an eclectic touch.
While it's obvious that the band's instrumental sound can be labeled as electronic with rock influences, Nissley's vocals pull the overall sound towards the rock-emo genre, making the band entirely unique. There's no doubt that their catchy EP will be successful commercially because of its appeal to rock, electronic, and mainstream fans. The album is heavy enough for rockers, but contains enough samples for electronic music fans to indulge in. The music isn't so heavy that it would alienate mainstream listeners, because it follows a pop song structure formula that is easy for everyone to follow.
Although the band's electronic sound may often get them associated with a "party music" genre, the band is anything but superficial, and they have gained a reputation for being much deeper than typical electronic artists. The name, Innerpartysystem, alludes to George Orwell's 1984, and the entire first album is infused with social commentary. For example, their debut album's first single "Don't Stop" is about a musician's struggle with the dark side of fame. The song describes the musician as a servant for rich record labels who only uses his talent as a tool to make more money for the record company.
Their EP Never Be Content (the name is a running theme in the band's lyrical social commentary) leans further into the dance genre than their first album. The horror-sounding movie synths and 8-bit super Nintendo game sample sounds remind me of Deadmau5 and Le Castle Vania. The EP starts off with "And Together," a pump-up track with very little vocals. "And Together" would be a great introductory song to a show because it would definitely get the crowd excited and grooving.
Two social commentary tracks follow, with "Money" being the first. Unlike the fast-paced and angry "Don't Stop," "Money" is light and so groovy that someone who didn't know any better would not catch the satire.
The first hit (and second social commentary) "American Trash" is a heavy and hard-hitting dirty electro song with so much swagger you want to put your sunglasses on at night, but I wonder how the American audience will feel when they are supposed to sing along to "I'm just American trash." The music exudes so much positive energy, but the lyrics are dark and depressing (the emo is still strong in Nissley).
Nissley's vocal style is also a lot smoother on Never Be Content than on Innerpartysystem's first album because the lyrical load contains fewer words, allowing him to take his time to fully express the lyrics.
The first three songs of the EP are more fit for parties than Innerpartysystem because they build up until the beat drops, which would cause any crowd to go wild. The last three songs progress in a linear fashion with no beat dropping, making them more introspective. They are also about personal topics instead of social commentary.
"Out of Touch" describes the feelings that come with experiencing growing social isolation. The song never builds up, but it still gets pretty heavenly at the bridge.
"Not Getting Any Better" starts off like a more danceable relative of "Out of Touch." The bridge gets very groovy, but the beat never drops the way it does in the first three songs, leaving the feeling of a sad track that tries to distract itself from melancholy by dancing, never confronting the fact that things are not getting any better if you avoid your problems.
"Squid" is an introspective social commentary-laden track that sulks in more depressing territory while the percussion lets the synths and vocals take the limelight. The song ends with twinkling synth sounds, making me feel like someone is praying to the stars for a better world, ending the EP in a placid mood.
Never Be Content seems to follow the dynamics of a person (beautifully decorated with a plethora of rich synthesizer sound textures and chopped up samples) who is secretly emo at heart in the midst of a party. The EP starts off very excitedly with "And Together," builds up with "Money," and climaxes at "American Trash," where it realizes how unhappy it is with the mindset of its peers. This causes the depression and social isolation felt in "Out of Touch." The album then tries to distract itself by dancing but realizes that things are "Not Getting Any Better," so it reverts to confronting people about their perspectives on what living the good life means and wishing for a better world in "Squid."