19 Jul 2024
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Anecdata - Album Review: Obsolete

05 Jun 2024 // A review by Nicholas Clark

Anecdata is a one man band, Dan, who proves without a shadow of a doubt that a single person can be far more prolific than a band of many members. He has recorded nine albums and a number of singles, dabbling in various genres (grunge pop as well as new wave inspired rock) and done covers also including New Zealand classic Sierra Leone, originally by Coconut Rough, and two Beatles covers (I Am The Walrus, and Things We Said Today).

His most recent offering is Obsolete, which was written and recorded in just six weeks in January/February of this year. It tackles subjects such as artificial intelligence, the future of jobs with both humans and robots in the workplace, the economy and the world going to hell. The band name itself means “information or evidence that is based on personal experience or observation rather than systematic research or analysis” and this relates specifically to this album’s themes of future pondering. However, if you thought the music was going to be dark, you’d be surprised…

The album is upbeat, invigorating and colourful. The guitars are fuzzed out, delivering a wall of powerful sound while power-pop-punk style drums smash and crash through the songs with a playful energy. But it’s the keyboards that really take centre stage, even over the vocals, in many songs. Dan is obviously a fan of 1980’s new wave bands such as New Order, Talking Heads, Devo and Gary Numan. 80’s style synths buzz and purr throughout the tracks as a lead instrument, then murmur, coo and croon in the background while supporting the song. It gives the whole sonic texture of the album a futuristic taste (even if those sounds are, in fact, slightly retro and originate in the past). Set against these keyboards are Smashing Pumpkins style voicings, or power chord choices that wouldn’t be amiss on a Fu Manchu, Helmet or even a Weezer record. A New Zealand equivalent would be Good Shirt who combined these powerful guitar sounds with playful synth lines. The vocals are somewhat buried, but sometimes are vocoded, echoed or effected in some other way to draw attention to the lyrics (such as using a robot voice when discussing the topic of artificial intelligence). It all makes for an impressive, thick sound that largely shapes the whole album.

The album begins with an instrumental, Wake Up, Arabella!, which is really just an engine test for the musical outfit that is Anecdata. It’s got it all: the Devo keyboards, the Smashing Pumpkins fuzz, the fast energetic drumming hinting at what is to come.

Wake Up Feeling Shit, the ‘single’, features the keyboards front and centre, with harmonized vocals that dramatically change the song’s direction on the lines: ‘Doctor tells me to get a blood test’ or ‘the doctor tells me to take a new pill’ followed not only by a tasteful guitar solo, but a keyboard to boot.

Many songs on this album (such as Merging Universes and Failure) have the guitar fuzz on full, and also proving Dan is a fan of the Moog sound. There’s some real cleverness to be found here, with witty lyrics such Fake Job, ‘look at me now, working at a day job at night’ and other songs such as W*RK and Obsolete, which revolve around questioning the rapidly approaching revolution related to artificial intelligence, specifically in relation to the workplace.

While the sound of the record is upbeat, the lyrics are usually quite dark except for the occasional humorous track such as The Questions That Keep Me Up At Night (“If animals could talk would they be a friend or enemy?”) but even then, there seems to be an existential crisis right below the surface waiting to be explored.

Throughout the album, the same sound is often employed to great effect. Scablord (which positively explodes at 1.11 into perhaps the heaviest riff of the album bordering on stoner rock), and Obsolete features a Hammond organ sound, and Vultures includes a sudden stops/go rhythm that really draws attention to the tightness of the performances, however, the prominent sound does get just a little repetitive perhaps.

The World Can Go To Hell has a bit of a 90's vibe, or 2000’s Mid-West emo introduction, and has the delightful lyrics: ‘we might as well enjoy the final curtain’, which appears to be what Dan is doing here with his musical outfit perhaps.

Shadow War is another instrumental that officially closes the album, featuring the same fuzzed out bliss, with a prominent bass, and swirling synth leads.

We’re Doomed, the final, bonus track, features the same powerful sound but contains some of the darkest lyrics on the album: ‘What do you know, it was earth all along, what were we thinking, if we were at all’, followed later in the song by the refrain ‘time is running out, we’re doomed’, all the more challenging perhaps because it is delivered in an upbeat vocal style similar to The Cars. It seems like this is the intention often – almost as if the apocalypse will arrive, but with a pleasant smile/voice.

It’s a robust sounding record that demonstrates both the advantages and disadvantages of single person outfits. Dan is obviously a very talented musician, and you can’t argue with his output, but perhaps with others in the band different ideas may have been explored. As it is, it’s a slab of solid rock with one foot in a new-wave synth revival, slickly produced to a highly professional level.

One musician, surely, that will be hard to replace once the robot overlords arrive.

 

About Anecdata

Anecdata is one guy - me! Dan. I live in West Auckland, which isn't a surprising place to end up for someone born in Hawke's Bay that grew up in Hamilton.

It's essentially a home studio outlet for my songs, whether they're alternative rock (See 2022's Syzygy), electronic (2020's Battle Thru Time, release just two weeks before the first Covid lockdown), lo-fi indie (2022's Team of Just One), or a tribute to 1980's new wave (2021's double album Undelete).

2022 was a particularly productive year, with a few full-length records (including the retro electro-pop Escape From Mars, released under the Dharma Police moniker) a couple of one-off grunge-pop singles (House of Ghouls and the satirical/political Holidays in Hawaii) and a series of covers - including the Beatles' I Am the Walrus and Things We Said Today, and Kiwi classic Sierra Leone, originally by Coconut Rough.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Anecdata

Releases

Obsolete
Year: 2024
Type: Album
Aucklantis
Year: 2023
Type: Album
If I Was PM...
Year: 2023
Type: Album

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