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Broker/Dealer - Initial Public Offering

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Artist: Broker/Dealer

Album: Initial Public Offering

Label: Asphodel

Review date: Aug. 28, 2003

Not One for NASDAQ

This isn't really the negative question it might seem at first – it's more of a rhetorical wondering – but I'm wondering why this album exists. Nearly all of the moments on here give me a slight sense of deja vu, although that's not entirely accurate since deja vu implies that I only feel like I've been here before. In this case, I really have.

"Take Your Time", the first song on Initial Public Offering, is one of the best. A pleasant New Wave instrumental rehash of Kraftwerk mixed with a bit of ’80s synth-pop; it's nothing that Air hasn’t already done, and Air themselves were already blatantly stealing from the past. To their credit, Broker/Dealer have at least stuck some moderately catchy melodies into their pastiche.

Well-mannered to a fault, this album would make excellent restaurant music, since it couldn't offend anyone. Sequenced drum machines pulse and click, making no attempt to disguise their synthetic nature either by sound or by varying from the simplest 4/4 rhythms. "On a Claire Day" layers harmless synth washes over an unchanging bit of percussion, and calls it done. "Sun Struck" goes a bit deeper, with a rubbery synth bassline and echoing pings buoyed by a clicking rhythm track. A more intriguing counter-rhythm of synth hits arrive later, and makes this one of the more interesting songs on Initial Public Offering, perhaps like what Art of Noise would be doing if they were still working.

"Feel Free" is ironically anything but, trapped in a steady, tedious rhythm and locked in with electronic sounds that lack all personality. It's like an advertising agency decided to create a calm electronic song with a beat that "anyone should enjoy". It wears out its welcome long before its seven minutes are through.

As for the other songs, "Can't Believe" and "Miss You" sparkle past with an android gleam of artificiality, what some seem to call "teutonic minimalism." The squeaky-clean, familiar sounds seem to slide away and vanish in the distance, with nothing the worse for wear.

Every once in a while I hear a glimmer of something else, as when some polyrhythmic synth peeks through towards the end of "Miss You". But then it vanishes, as if afraid to disturb the perfect sheen with contrasting ripples. It's too bad, because some disturbance would bring much-needed personality to the proceedings. As it is, Initial Public Offering seems content to regurgitate placid sounds from the past. There's no harm in it, but alas, there's no fun either.

By Mason Jones

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