London electro-rockers Plastique are a weird amalgamation of bands like Soulwax, Placebo, Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails and make for a rather intriguing listen. The band return with their 2nd album ‘#SocialScar’ which is a concept record of sorts. The record covers “the dysfunctional lifestyles we all lead” and how “everyone is is all-too-quick to display their flawed/idealistic personas on social media” (vocalist Anelise Kunz’s words, not mine). I think it was pretty obvious that the album title being typeset with a hash symbol had something to do with social media and one could cynically add that this might have been done on purpose so that when the album is discussed on a certain social network they inadvertently create a hashtag for easy advertising.
The thing with Plastique is that for all snarky commentary on social media, they’ve positioned themselves in an environment where they are heavily dabbling with it. Take Kunz herself for example. The vocalist often portrays herself as a bit of a sex symbol and often whispers lines that deal with hanky-panky in that sort of clichéd Hollywood-huskiness we’ve all heard a million times before. The lines that instantly spring to mind is the rather cringy utterance of “I’m ready to fuck you” in ‘Scarlett’ and “just wanna get laid” in ‘Going Down’. This approach ends up portraying Kunz as a sort of adolescent fantasy and not a vocalist which is obviously a bit of a weird position for a band to be in but a great one if you happen to be marketing them.
All this bizarre presentation disguises an album that is rife with ideas but often lacks the song-writing ability to make them sound engaging. When Plastique are at their best they’re writing alt-pop anthems like ‘She Hates’, ‘White Noise’ and ‘Going Down’ which stomp along like out-takes from Marilyn Manson’s ‘The Golden Age of Grotesque’. There’s also a surprising little punk anthem in the form of ‘Home’ which sounds like Anneke van Giersbergen’s work on Devin Townsend’s ‘Addicted!’.
But for every fist-pumping, goth club floor-filler there’s a song that meanders around with no real structure and ends up coming off as simple album filler. ‘Under My Skin (My Favourite Sin)’ and ‘Apocrypha’ are great examples as both songs lack a hook or memorable chorus that other songs on ‘#SocialScar’ manage perfectly.
The other strange choice comes in the form of the meticulously shiny production. ‘#SocialScar’ is apparently a backlash at the “generic indie rock that dominates the charts” but it all sounds so clean and calculated. This album screams “daytime XFM playlist” and it wouldn’t surprise me if the songs made their way onto bigger stations like Radio 1. This doesn’t seem like the sort of approach a band who are supposedly sticking their fingers up at the charts would take.
‘#SocialScar’ isn’t a bad album but it isn’t a particularly great one either. The album is full of half-baked ideas that lack focus. The band also seem to put a lot of attention on their image which creates a rather uncomfortable listen that paints Anelise Kunz as a poster-girl and not a talented vocalist. If Plastique can return with an increased focus on their music and filling their songs with bombastic, overblown choruses they’d be far more endearing as a band.
Plastique’s ‘#SocialScar’ is released independently by the band on October 28th.