Look, stop cringing for one minute and let’s try and circumnavigate tthis Hamburg quartet’s choice of moniker. Actually no, it’s quite hard to do that. Fuck Art, Let’s Dance! (even the extraneous use of punctuation grates) – an indie-via-dance outfit who have been chugging along in Germany’s hippest spots since 2009 – wear their sweary collective heart on their sweary collective sleeve: the name is a key part of their desire to, in the words of their gushing press release, 'start a movement'. And while invoking radical American painter Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s phrase (last zeitgeisty back in 1981) as your band name certainly does suggest a yearning towards connecting with a certain set, FA,LD!’s accessible brand of pop music will most likely fail to connect with some potential members of said movement due to the rather unmarketable title of debut album Atlas.
If you’re already sensing that this project may be a little lost in translation, then you’re probably on the right track: for a German band who sing entirely in English there were always going to be some oversights. Take the dictionary-not-found ‘We’re Manicals’ (triple-checked and it’s definitely not a word), which has an unshakable incorrectness to it that defeats any efforts made towards relating to being a, er, “manical”.
But I’ll stop being a hideous linguistic pedant for one second and instead focus on the content. Yes, musically, Atlas is pleasant enough. There’s a clear Friendly Fires influence on tracks like ‘Home’ and ‘Hemisphere’; their striding synths and delay guitars laying the kind of groundwork you’d expect to see Ed Macfarlane sweatily gyrating around to on some festival stage. ‘Deja-Vu’, meanwhile, brashly crashes the party like the soundtrack to a glaringly-colourful Rimmel London advert before finishing with a guitar line lifted from third album-era Bloc Party.
The burning question, however, is this: does Atlas add anything to the mix, or is it just derivative of recent indie-disco? Sadly, it’s more the latter. Over its surprisingly-lengthy duration, there’s an inevitability to Atlas’ every offering as a very plain texture of synth-drum machine-droney vocals emerges that doesn’t exactly astound. Sure, there’s catchy choruses on the Delphic-aping likes of ‘Atlas’ and ‘Fake Love’, but it’s nothing that you’d sniff at more than you would your average support band down your local toilet venue. The sounds may be initially pleasant, but there’s very little variation throughout the 13 tracks and, as such, it all becomes a bit of a drag.
Maybe some people – manicals? - who’ll listen to FA,LD! play around on a drum machine, harmonise at the same vocal pitch, and twiddle on some synths for 13 whole songs will be moved to, if not forming a movement, then at the very least moving about. But sadly Atlas just isn’t the manifesto that these cursing Germans presumably hoped it would become.
5Sam Moore's Score