Universal Poplab

[Uprising sleeve]"Uprising" (Album, 2007)

Wonderland Records

At times, this reminds me an awful lot (quite alarmingly, I might add) of manufactured English pop act Steps. Yep, Steps.

I haven't the faintest idea what the 'Uprising' of the title is referring to, but opener Soma Generation whose lyrics despair (in a distinctly un-desperate manner) at the unengaged state of the youth of today: "T-shirt slogans are as close as we get to revolution" might make sense of the album title on paper, however, as a collection of popular music tunes this is pretty testing.

The synthpop idea almost comes together in fleeting moments like the chorus to Vampire In You - unquestionably as cheesy as you might imagine it is - but catchily jaunty nonetheless. Or in the opening minute of 60 Is The New 40. This is a song that, for those initial 60 seconds, could be an on-form Vince Clarke but rapidly crashes and burns in spectacular fashion featuring the most bizarre song topic (and lyrics to match) I've heard in some years. Just why three 30-something Swedes are singing, without any hint of irony, about "Leather-chested grandads on the sunny side of Spain" who (we are advised in sugary sweet tones) resort to cosmetic surgery and viagra to 'get the girls' is beyond my comprehension. It's just surreal. 4/10

Rob Dyer (August, 2008)

[I Could Say I'm Sorry sleeve]"I Could Say I'm Sorry" (Single, 2006)

Wonderland Records

My first sampling of Thermostatic's label mates, Universal Poplab are, curiously, just what I expected they might be. Smooth synthpop songs, very emotive vocals, and a polished image and a touch too much... just too much... for my taste. The (very posed) photo of the band fiddling with a Sequential Circuits Pro-One analogue synth on the inner sleeve softens my potential indifference, since I owned one of those classic machines early in my recording career, and there is that warmth that analogue synths bring to the sound on this single. Fortunately though this isn't quite as syrupy as a lot of the European synthpop can be, but the vocals could do with a character boost.

The titular song appears four times. The Single and Instrumental entries are served up by our three Swedish lads (the latter is actually quite a different version and all the better for it). Choice of remixers is good offering two quite distinct perspectives. Thermostatic's Pong styling works its usual magic, whilst the Jens Lodén Remix is a quite muscular and bass friendly reworking that serves the source material well. Vampire in You is decent enough (and better than the title might suggest) aided by a nice, melodic chorus line. Could almost be an early Alphaville b-side, which is, obviously, no bad thing. 6/10

Rob Dyer (March, 2008)

Official website: http://www.universalpoplab.com