Music Reviews
The Weight's On The Wheels

The Russian Futurists The Weight's On The Wheels

(Upper Class) Buy it from Insound Rating - 6/10

Over the last ten years Matthew Hart & co. have done a stoic job of packaging their lo-fi, synth-pop, producing three albums and a smattering of tasty singles. It’s an unmistakable sound that has translated into populist success for others in recent years, most notably in the meteoric rise and fall of MGMT in the public eye. And now, post Time to Pretend and five years on, they’re back with a new record, begging questions and lots of them, most importantly: what’s different?

First impressions of The Weight's on the Wheels are pretty transparent. Hoeing Weeds Sowing Seeds, opener and first single, enters with the familiar snares and synthesizers; cue the simple thumping bass-line and abstract lyrical content. It’s euphoric pop in precisely the same vein as Paul Simon and much of their previous material, no surprises then but at least it serves as a clear and threatening reminder of what the group are capable of and that’s no bad thing.

It’s with One Night, One Kiss that we first see a divergence. Based on strangely undrenched piano keys, it’s a saccharine sweet duet in which Hart croons ‘there’s no doubt that/we’re made for each other’. He may be trying a sly joke at drunken one night stands and easy affection – but the reality instead only conjures up images of Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman on Somethin' Stupid. It’s not an enjoyable comparison to make, but that doesn’t make it any less accurate.

This is not a trend to repeat, but by toning down the excess and maintaining a more traditional wall of sound, they manage to get it right second time round, and 100 Shopping Days ‘Til Christmas mixes cliché with cleverly observed satire to good effect. Hart chants neatly ‘100 shopping days until Christmas/and you’re the one thing on my wish list’ dry as you like, irony abound. The underlying hip-hop and funk heritage of the track is subtly apparent but commanding nonetheless.

Among this we find Register Our Firearms? No Way! A well aimed pot-shot at gun-touting huntsmen, which proves to be the standout song on the record; fusing their traditional lo-fi electro-indie with R&B backing vocals and woven, cyclic, rhythms across the chorus. It’s TRF through and through and undoubtedly strong enough to rival past triumphs.

It’s a shame then that there follows a regression to the mean: Horseshoe Fortune and Walk With a Crutch are painfully average, while the pop sentiments of Tripping Horses are excessively brazen and often tiring. There is a certain sense of late LP sag, the sort of music that may warm with repeated listens but seems fatigued and uncertain.

Ultimately The Weight’s on the Wheels works on the whole. Its finest moments are excellent examples of the wry electro-pop that TRF are certainly proficient at; at its worst, however, the album lacks any evidence of an evolution in sound or style, suffering from mediocrity rather than being distinctly poor. This is the TRF of five years ago, and ten years ago – and that is what gives rise to both the successes and failings of this record. It seems fortunate then that it’s been a long time - if you need your fix, here it is.