Under Review: The Apples In Stereo – Travellers In Space And Time

Since founding his neon power-pop project Apples In Stereo in 1992, leader Robert Schneider has taken his group on a journey from one brightly-colored sound to another.  While the Apples have always maintained some reverence for pop of the ‘60s and ‘70s, Schneider has never ceased exploring the limits of accessible pop music, often injecting dissonance and noise into otherwise cheery songs.  New Magnetic Wonder, the last full Apples album, explored what Schneider called the Non-Pythagorean Scale: a new musical series meant to challenge our traditional notions of pleasing tonality.  It was heady stuff, for sure, but the outcome was a handful of sound experiments that served as the bridges between some unabashedly fun and catchy numbers.  The Apples’ new album, Travellers In Space And Time, seems to ditch the vanguard act in favor of a glitzy and retro-futuristic romp through disco and new wave.  Beginning with “The Code,” a Man Or Astro-Man?-esque found instructional recording, Travellers gets to its point very quickly and effectively with the piano-led “Dream About The Future.”  The song also presents Schneider’s latest vocal style: a squealing, possibly manipulated falsetto.  Even if his voice is aided by a processor (“Told You Once”) or Vocoder (the mechanized “C.P.U.”), it’s all in the name of capturing the spirit of an era.

The sci-fi themes implied by the album’s title do show up on tracks like “Floating In Space” and closer “Time Pilot,” but the motif isn’t prevalent enough for this to really be considered a concept album.  Still, there are some mighty fine and enjoyable moments to be found on Travellers.  “No Vacation” is a bouncy yet expertly controlled exercise in handclaps and “ooh”-ing background vocals.  The fluid, acrobatic melody of “Dignified Dignitary” is complimented by its frequent stops and instrumental dropouts; both hallmarks of ‘70s glam-pop.  A few of the songs on Travellers wear their influences more overtly, but since the Apples have always shown themselves to be true music fans, allusions to Magical Mystery Tour (“Wings Away”) or Odessey & Oracle (“It’s All Right”) don’t come across as contrived.  The Apples In Stereo can’t be effectively criticized for their work because it’s so contagiously amusing that even alleged non-fans are sure to crack a smile.  Schneider might still be in search of the discovery that will elevate him to the level of musical pioneer, but as long as he still cranks out an Apples In Stereo record every few years, we’ll have some great stuff to listen to while he seeks that elusive note.

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~ by E. on April 21, 2010.

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