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Record Reviews

Art Vs. Science
The Experiment

On debut album ‘The Experiment’, Art Vs. Science understand that repetition is the foundation of dance music – but it’s a trick that wears thin, writes ANDREW MCMILLEN.

Popular culture generally exists to meet demand. Most artists spend their lives attempting to offer works that resonate with as wide an audience as possible. By tapping into popular sentiments, savvy artists can short-circuit the often lengthy process of artistic acceptance. Case in point: Art Vs. Science, who – legend has it – formed on the spot while its three members stood watching Daft Punk playing in Sydney some years ago. The crowd was going bonkers for two dudes in robot suits atop a glowing pyramid. They probably stood and wondered aloud: “Why not us?”

Following on from a high-profile spot at Splendour In The Grass in 2008, thanks largely to debut single ‘Flippers’ – whose goofy chorus was comprised entirely of “Hey! Ho! Use your flippers to get down!” – and nearly topping the 2009 triple j Hottest 100 with ‘Parlez Vous Francais?’, Art Vs. Science have emerged with their first album, The Experiment. True to form, it’s packed from top to tail with brash electronica, delivered with their now-trademark dance-punk attitude. Here, we hear guitars furiously tapping away at fretboards during oh-so obvious breakdowns that lead into slamming synth-led choruses; all custom-made for hands-in-the-air dance festival sets. (By the by, this is a band who’s known for performing live covers of ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ and ‘Boom! Shake The Room’ to tents full of peaking munters).

In isolation, The Experiment is a dull record, because these songs won’t come to life until they’re heard and felt in a live environment. A five-minute instrumental rave-up like ‘Meteor (I Feel Fine)’ sounds foolish playing on your home stereo (though interestingly, it’s the closest they’ve gotten to sounding like Daft Punk). Several songs here are based around single words or short phrases – ‘Higher’, ‘Bumblebee’, ‘Sledgehammer’ – which seem to be included for the sole purpose of giving crowds something nonsensical to shout amid the pulsing synth din.

“In isolation, 'The Experiment' is a dull record, because these songs won’t come to life until they’re heard and felt in a live environment.”

Album opener (and highlight, by a wide margin) 'Finally See Our Way' is a taut pop song laced with electronic flourishes. When I first heard it on the radio, I thought it was a new Midnight Juggernauts track. Such a comparison is a credit to what Art Vs. Science achieve here: vocally, musically, structurally, it's without doubt their creative peak thus far. Which makes The Experiment’s artistic troughs that much harder to bear. Take ‘Bumblebee’, for example. Built around an insistent electronic beat, the track sees one of the band’s dual keyboardist/vocalists repeating the song’s title, over and over, through a vocoder. For nearly four minutes.

This dichotomy between the band’s modes of songwriting is jarring. ‘New World Order’ is the halfway mark between the two: relatively sedate, yet still flecked by spiralling synth lines. Single ‘Magic Fountain’ is Art Vs. Science at the height of their macho bravado. Characterised by a ridiculous cheesy, reverb-laden vocal intro, its chorus features a battery of warped keyboard sounds and – of course – the song’s title, repeated over and over.

Evidently Art Vs. Science understand that repetition is the foundation of dance music. But were it not for the album’s opener and the surprisingly mellow ‘With Thoughts’, the album could be easily dismissed as a one-note act making hay while the sun still shines on their blissfully brainless patch of land. Though there’s irony in the fact that three intelligent guys are (probably) having a massive laugh at how they’re able to make such ridiculously OTT music for a mainstream audience, as it stands, The Experiment fails.

  -   Published on Thursday, March 3 2011 by Andrew McMillen.
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Your Comments

max bulk  said about 3 years ago:

...to tents full of peaking munters

Textbook indie reviewer dance music backhander.


montyclift  said about 3 years ago:

all those peaking munters undressing them with their eyes.


Coz  said about 3 years ago:

Does anyone else think the artwork looks just a bit too much like Cut Copy's?


anonymous  said about 3 years ago:

muscles come back, all is forgiven.


SGH  said about 3 years ago:

Most artists spend their lives attempting to offer works that resonate with as wide an audience as possible.

They do?


Dexter Ramone  said about 3 years ago:

Does anyone else think the artwork looks just a bit too much like Cut Copy's?

Good call. Now all I can imagine this being is the prequel to Zonoscope.

Sorry Cut Copy


FrankieTeardrop  said about 3 years ago:

''...to tents full of peaking munters''

Textbook indie reviewer dance music backhander.

I don't see what's backhanded about this. More like a statement of fact.


Block  said about 3 years ago:

Which makes The Experiment’s artistic troughs that much harder to bear.

Hmm.

But were it not for the album’s opener and the surprisingly mellow ‘With Thoughts’, the album could be easily dismissed as a one-note act making hay

It's all shit except two tracks?


max bulk  said about 3 years ago:

I don't see what's backhanded about this. More like a statement of fact.

Sounds like the typical dismissive thing rock critics have been saying about dance music for over a decade now. Which would explain why you're comfortable with it.


max bulk  said about 3 years ago:

I just like to entertain the idea that the talented, expeditious and trailblazing musical hero you idiots so earnestly seek exists well outside their scope of view, and is happy and productive for this fact.

There, I said it.


max bulk  said about 3 years ago:

PS. Wyld Stallyns ROCK!


Peter  said about 3 years ago:

bulk, leave the fuck you coolsies to me.


chrisj  said about 3 years ago:

Most artists spend their lives attempting to offer works that resonate with as wide an audience as possible.

surely not. art is art. it ain't got nothing to do with no INDUSTRY.


Goal attack  said about 3 years ago:

What about theART?


timewaster  said about 3 years ago:

So far, this record ain't getting very good reviews in the press. But Art Vs Science don't care... They've got 10 000 kids in singlets and white slippers shouting their lyrics at undersold dance festivals, they've got fake-tanned 18 year old groupies and lavish riders. They've got shiny boots and tailored suits ... so critical success can get fucked.


c.ribbs  said about 3 years ago:

but can they sleep at night?


temporarybenbutler  said about 3 years ago:

Sure, they've got 1000-count Egyptian cotton sheets.


montyclift  said about 3 years ago:

i like that this discussion has gone from art vs. science to art vs. commerce.


untold/animals  said about 3 years ago:

Music (art) vs Physics (science)


mathieson  said about 3 years ago:

Last minute album chart prediction threadjack?

They're on their own label, through MGM, but Triple J love 'em and they've got ''10 000 kids in singlets and white slippers shouting their lyrics at undersold dance festivals''.

In stores now, chart out Sunday night.

I'm calling 5.


dnzr  said about 3 years ago:

Several songs here are based around single words or short phrases – ‘Higher’, ‘Bumblebee’, ‘Sledgehammer’ – which seem to be included for the sole purpose of giving crowds something nonsensical to shout amid the pulsing synth din.

or cos they know just the singles will get downloaded and butchered into 12 seconds grabs for ringtones...


email  said about 3 years ago:

I'm going to cock it up a notch and go for a number 4.


NiteShok  said about 3 years ago:

Number two for mine. It's gonna be big.


No_Anchor  said about 3 years ago:

Does anyone else think the artwork looks just a bit too much like Cut Copy's?

That artwork is two layers of awful photoshop and one boring picture. Have never heard this band. I must live in heaven by the sounds of it.


chrisj  said about 3 years ago:

in singlets and white slippers

what is with those fucking slippers? they shit me.


musojourno  said about 3 years ago:

worst Australian album of all time.


shaun  said about 3 years ago:

Better than the last You Am I record though.


astrousersasmind  said about 3 years ago:

I call 3. Was really surprised to see PJ Harvey debut at 6 at James Blake to crack the Top 40 last week. Go team.


onelouder  said about 3 years ago:

I'm calling 3 as well.


whatamuffa  said about 3 years ago:

yeah, well heck I dunno, send me a copy, ... please, ... if itś worth the effort of listening to, PMing my Adress, etc.

kind Regards,

The Critic


temporarybenbutler  said about 3 years ago:

Number one with a bullet.


NiteShok  said about 3 years ago:

Number two: http://www.ariacharts.com.au/pages/charts_display.asp?chart=1G50

According to journalist Andrew Murfett: ''Art vs Science miss this week's ARIA album chart #1. Buble beat them by just 68 sales. Buble sold 5512 units; Art vs Science 5444 #ohshit'' http://twitter.com/#!/amurfett/status/44560106200907776


unvisible  said about 3 years ago:

Wow. So by buying 69 Michael Buble CDs for 69 very special ladies this week, I not only kept my romantic life running at full steam, but I also kept mediocre Australian music from the top of the charts. Talk about a win-win situation!


spruik  said about 3 years ago:

for some reason I read peaking munters as meek punters.

I lol'd.

Easily the best review of this album out there, from someone who may or may not have written one of the others.


shaun  said about 3 years ago:

I don't object to McMillen's review, but he kinda tends towards snobbery here as far as I'm concerned. I think a lot of the qualities he objects to are what makes Art Vs Science effective and enjoyable: the ugly, repetitive incantations, the mindlessness, the imperative to dance and move. They don't do it with any special flair, but the way they pull their moves isn't predestined to be bad. It kinda reminds me of reading about Fat Boy Slim in the NME in the 90s. Listening to this in the context of songwriting is probably not the best way to go about it.

The Polaroids of Androids review of this record is fucking horrendous though.


greendreams  said about 3 years ago:

i just joined this thread to say that these guys suck, and you should feel bad for making them feel cool


timewaster  said about 3 years ago:

In their defence:

It's not art. Art vs Science don't pretend it's art. Maybe all the bad reviews will drive them nuts and they'll do pretentious side-projects to prove that they're 'real' artists.

This record is bubblegum dance-rock for 18 year kids on schoolies. That's who AvS are trying to reach. They've succeeded at it. It is what it is.


greendreams  said about 3 years ago:

I succeeded in dropping a massive turd this afternoon. Epic success!!!!


anonymous  said about 3 years ago:

wtf?


untold/animals  said about 3 years ago:

poop will eat itself


LoadMyRig  said about 3 years ago:

I would watch this


pfinger18  said about 2 years ago:

ARIA award winning!!!!


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Tracklisting
  • 1.   Finally See Our Way
  • 2.   Take a Look at Your Face
  • 3.   A.I.M. Fire!
  • 4.   Higher
  • 5.   Magic Fountain
  • 6.   With Thoughts
  • 7.   Meteor (I Feel Fine)
  • 8.   Rain Dance
  • 9.   Sledgehammer
  • 10.   New World Order
  • 11.   Bumblebee
  • 12.   Heavy Night
  • 13.   Before You Came to This Place
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