RetRoBot: Blackout - The Reykjavik Grapevine

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RetRoBot: Blackout

Atli Bollason

Published November 20, 2012

Músíktilraunir 2012 winners RetRoBot play electronic rock that’s heavily indebted to the eighties, when I presume none of these guys were born. This is prevalent in terms of the drum machines (mostly 909-ish), almost metal-like guitars, new wave-y vocal delivery, and there’s plenty of vocoder in here as well.
There’s a sense that the ‘80s soundscapes weren’t exploited to their fullest at the time, so I understand the appeal of the ‘80s revival (which has gone on much longer than the actual ‘80s), maybe to the point where RetRoBot’s points of reference aren’t the actual ‘80s, but styles like electroclash, that quote the ’80s themselves. These sounds help locate RetRoBot in the 21st century (whereas bands like Kiriyama Family are pure pastiche).
“Generation” is by far the best thing on here, building slowly for almost two minutes before dropping straightforward beats, hard-hitting synths and… fucking awful guitars. In their bluesy, hairy metallicity, they never transcend kitsch and sound out of place in what is otherwise an impressive sound for a debut recording. This problem persists throughout the EP, the guitars pretty much ruining what could’ve been a decent Justice replica in the first minute of “Electric Wizard.” Vocals are another problem. At times they work, like in the crooner intro of “Blackout,” but often they feel forced, preoccupied with half-mocking new-wave, and void of authentic emotion, discernible character and memorable melody.
‘Blackout’ unfortunately fulfils the prophecy set forward in the lyrics to “Generation,” a sing-along where they complain about their generation being doomed to chaos and partying. What ensues is a chaotic bricolage of ideas that feels distasteful and, worse, hollow party music.


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