The Japanese Popstars Controlling Your Allegiance * CD

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The Japanese Popstars Controlling Your Allegiance * CD. Previously more renowned as the hometown of Girls Aloud's Nadine Coyle, the Undertones' Feargal Sharkey, and Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon, Northern Ireland's second biggest city, Derry, was unexpectedly placed firmly on the dance scene map thanks to trio the Japanese Popstars' blistering 2008 debut, We Just Are. Bolstering their reputation, Gary Curran, Declan McLaughlin, and Gareth Donoghue have amassed an impressive array of guest stars that most of their knob-twiddling contemporaries could only dream of for their first vocal-led release, Controlling Your Allegiance. Any fans concerned that the Popstars' previous brand of ferocious and avant-garde electronica might be slightly tempered should be instantly reassured, as the three-piece has resolutely refused to allow the star-studded roll call to compromise its sound. "Destroy" is a sinister slice of industrial techno, full of twitchy synths, ominous basslines, and unsettling evangelical-style vocals from punk-blues frontman Jon Spencer, opener "Let Go" is an equally unnerving fusion of garage rock and trippy electro featuring the robotic tones of Chicago house pioneer Green Velvet, and the five instrumentals include the kaleidoscopic acid house of "Tomorrow Man," the warped Mr. Oizo-esque synths, spacy sound effects, and hypnotic beats of "Falcon Punch," and the Orbital-inspired ambience of "Catapult." It's not all thunderous four-to-the-floor beats, though, as folk chanteuse Lisa Hannigan and M83's Morgan Kibby lend their ethereal vocals to the melodic house of "Song for Lisa" and the mellow trip-hop of "Fight the Night," respectively, Tom Smith from Editors (whose 2009 single "Papillon" was remixed by the trio) repays the favor, showcasing his trademark doom-laden baritone on the Chicane-esque dream-trance of "Joshua," and fresh from his contribution to Crystal Castles' last album, Robert Smith proves his dancefloor credentials yet again, providing his suitably gothic tones to the chiming guitar hooks and melancholic melodies of "Take Forever." With the tunes to back up their surprisingly alternative guest list, Controlling Your Allegiance is an accomplished and cohesive body of work that manages to accomplish the leap forward they needed to transcend their club roots. ~ Jon O'Brien
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