CD Review of Face Control by Handsome Furs
Handsome Furs: Face Control
Recommended if you like
New Order, The Kills, Joy Division
Label
Sub Pop
Handsome Furs: Face Control

Reviewed by James B. Eldred

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H
andsome Furs is the side-project of Wolf Parade's Dan Boeckner, who formed the band in 2006 with his then-girlfriend, now-wife, Alexei Perry. Unlike the indie-pop sound of that ludicrously-acclaimed Canadian group, Handsome Furs are more low-key and low-fi, experimenting more with electronic music that has a slight rock edge.

Plague Park saw Handsome Furs dipping their feet lightly into the ‘80s with a post-punk sound and a decided Echo & the Bunnymen vibe; Face Control has the duo embracing the ‘80s completely, skirting back and forth between the post-punk sound of the first album and all-out synth pop dance music, which is just a really complicated way of saying that now they sound a lot like early New Order.

Handsome Furs

They sound so much like New Order, in fact, that they had to delay the release of the album because the song "All We Want, Baby, Is Everything" references New Order's "Temptation." The influence is obvious, but calling it a reference or sample is a little unfair, other artists crib more from their influences and get away with it on a regular basis (listen to Puddle of Mudd's "She Hates Me" and Suicidal Tendencies' "I Saw Your Mommy" for an especially egregious example)

Handsome Furs should have been given automatic legal clearance on any New Order reference, since just about every song on Face Control does New Order better than New Order has since the early ‘90s. The handclaps and low-fi sequencer sound of "Legal Tender" and "Evangeline" are both straight out of "Age of Consent," and the excellent "Talking Hotel Arbat Blues" combines grinding guitars and synthetic beats in a way that will make fans of Low-Life shudder.

Not all of Face Control is a New Order pastiche, though. "I'm Confused" and "Radio Kalininbrad" push the programmed beats to the side in favor of blues-driven guitar riffs. Boeckner also looses the reins on his voice a little bit during these tracks, approaching near-screaming levels on occasion, breaking free of the synth-pop monotone delivery he keeps throughout most of the album.

But aside from those two tracks, Face Control is really the next-closest thing to a New Order tribute record, but what's the harm in that? It's about time someone got past the shameless cribbing of Joy Division and moved on to the next logical step. And speaking of next logical steps, if these two are really serious about New Order, then they have to get cooking on some serious club-friendly 12'' singles ASAP. The world needs another "Blue Monday."

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