Chris Corner is masterful – or at least he was. His breakout band, Sneaker Pimps, triumphantly rode on the trip hop wave of the 90’s (remember 6 Underground?) but then receded in obscurity for their later, more alt-rock albums. That’s not to say the latter work somehow paled to the time when Kelli Dayton sang for them – as I rather like the guitar-driven melancholia CC gushed about for a time.
Chris gave up the band in the 2000’s and started the IAMX side project, which continues on today. Transforming once more, CC embraced a manic, queer, and often house-y approach to his tunes. The recurring references to a vacillating and party-bound bisexual lifestyle are a bit cliched these days, but he’s gutsy enough to be honest about his purported existence in Berlin. The first two albums were clutch and highly-emotional; he seemed at the top of his demented game. “Spit It Out” and its neighbors on The Alternative will always have a safe place on my harddrive.
But then Kingdom of Welcome Addiction happened. The queerness had waned, the emotions were everyday, and the eclecticism faltered. Everyone I knew was pissed and felt betrayed – rightfully so. As one of my friends expressed his distaste so perfectly, it was as if CC gave in and started taking his doctor-mandated Zoloft.
Hesitation ruled when I heard IAMX came out with another album this month. Early gossip argued in favor of Volatile Times, that it was a return to form and vast improvement of the last entry. So, tabling my skepticism, I decided to bite; while VT is much much better than its predecessor, it still leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
The eclecticism of old has returned, with rushing tracks like “Music People”, melodic ones like “Fire And Whispers” , and lonesome forays like “Dance With Me”. “Bernadette” is the standout track as CC rediscovered the tuba and his baroque sensibilities a la “President“. Again, the bipolar switching is what CC does best and, gratefully, he jumps back into the pit here.
But then there are cheap entries in VT that end up puzzling the hell out of me (not in the good, wow-CC’s-really-%&$#ed-up way). For instance, “Into Asylum” is pretty good song but only until you realize how it lifts the beat from LCD’s “You Wanted A Hit” and piles on some MGMT-lite vocals. Similarly, “I Salute You Christopher” is a filler track that reminds me way too much of latter day Placebo – you’re a twisted gender-challenger, Chris, not an obsolescent boi-rocker like Brian Molko. The title track is probably the most disappointing as it could have easily been a B-side on the last album, albeit with some more wastefully expensive post-prod.
It’s a return for sure, but it also sounds like CC left some crucial pieces of baggage back his bedroom. Someone help the man completely wane off the no-fun pills and back onto their adversaries?