Conformist - Paid to Fake It
This album review is brought to you by the letters 'W', 'T' and 'F'. Those of you who like your music strange and exciting would do well to take note of this album, because it'll be right up your street. Its creator has a fine sense of irony, too: when 28-year-old Welshman Michael Simmons chose the name Conformist as the one under which he would release his material, he must have had his tongue lodged so firmly in his cheek that it required corrective surgery. His music is bracing, brave and occasionally bloody brilliant; it's the sort that tells the listener to 'shut up and dance', and quite literally does so on the dizzying opener (and lead single) 'Savages Go Modern!'. Simmons doesn't compromise or screw around; every single second drips ambition, and by the time the storming second track 'Big City Buzz Band' has come clattering to a halt, there is the distinct sense that the listener is in the presence of an artist who has an almost terrifying amount of belief in what he creates.
This allows him to take risks that quite a few of his contemporaries wouldn't even dream of, like throwing a thrash metal riff into 'Ladybug Ladybug' and even taking influence from the Blade Runner score on 'Post Death Sales Spike', deploying all manner of vocal samples over a claustrophobia-inducing, intense keyboard line. If he doesn't know when to scale it back, it's because the constant full-on approach - which reaches a number of peaks on the album, most notably on 'Schrodinger's Cat' - works so well for him. His debut is all over the place in the best possible way, constantly playing to his strengths to produce something almost constantly thrilling.
For all its diversity and willingness to experiment, these nine tracks come together to form a surprisingly cohesive whole - one will no doubt be constantly surprised by Simmons's dexterity. The brilliantly-titled 'Girl Who Burned From the Inside Out' moves seamlessly from dark and menacing electroclash to spacey ambience, even taking in some dubstep along the way and making it actually sound good. An album with this many stylistic twists and turns could easily be labelled as something hastily cobbled together, but its creator is having none of it. Paid to Fake It is the sort of record that will take your breath away if you let it; the moments when it's allowed to catch its breath (relatively speaking, of course), such as the opening half of 'Panic Buying', are the ones during which its dazzling, almost overpowering creativity shines through. Simmons is definitely on to something real.