- Ever since their 2005 debut album Hold Your Colour became one of the biggest-selling electronic albums of all time, drum n bass trio Pendulum ticked off pretty much every rock band cliché for prepping their follow up. Location change? Perth to London, check. Signing to a major label? Yep: from the scrappy Breakbeat Kaos to soul-sucking Warner Music. Switching styles? Sadly, yes – they’ve cashed out their unique “arena dnb” sound to become Electronica-Infused Nu-Metal Band No. 153B for their latest album, In Silico.
Lest we forget, there’s also the law of diminishing returns: three years on and only ten tracks to show for it. ‘Showdown’, the album’s leadoff, seemingly tries to compensate quantity for density by combining the distinctive Pendulum breakbeat (which sounds more like sped-up breaks than actual dnb) with their new affinity for wailing guitars and crashing live drums, mutating every eight bars to include everything from cheesy keyboard riffs to sleazy blues harmonica.
“In silico” means “performed on computer or via computer simulation,” but most of the album leans heavily towards vocal-led, live instrument rock n roll, with the Pendulum breakbeat there but usually buried under everything else. Rob Swire is capable in his role as lead singer but leaves little impression: it’s hard to imagine his run-of-the-mill voice being the reason why Pendulum ditched their certified-gold dnb sound for something so generic.
And that’s exactly the problem here. Last summer Pendulum put out a blinding EP, ‘Blood Sugar’/‘Axle Grinder’, and you can hardly believe that tracks like ‘Different’ and ‘The Tempest’ are from one and the same source. Apart from lacking any semblance of dnb, these two in particular are indistinguishable from the overproduced, assembly-line hard rock churning through the Top 40.
‘Midnight Runner’ is the album’s only (almost) entirely instrumental tune, mercifully cutting off the whiny vocals at the two-and-a-half minute mark for four minutes of mischievous drum n bass that should temporarily sate jilted fans. ‘9000 Miles’ is a more laid-back variation on the same theme, but, frustratingly, borrows its Vangelis-esque synths nearly note-for-note from ‘Plasticworld’ off Hold Your Colour.
Even if it is just ten measly tunes, it wouldn’t matter if the album held up in some respect to …Colour. Certainly it’s easier said than done, as that album’s first track in particular, ‘Slam,’ is still one of the most perfect dnb anthems ever made. There’s nary a bad apple among the remaining 13 tracks either, whereas In Silico is chock full of them – not even a single track can be confidently labeled as “good”. Pendulum have indeed dropped the ball with a resounding thud on this one, but time and tide may let In Silico be politely forgotten as their “sophomore slump”. Here’s hoping they ditch the silly rockstar aspirations and rebound with their original promise intact third time out.
03 Propane Nightmares
05 Midnight Runner
06 The Other Side
08 9,000 Miles
10 The Tempest