[Frontiers and New Technologies sleeve]"Frontiers and New Technologies" (Album, 1997)


A not entirely successful marriage of 60s psychedelia, 70s space rock and contemporary indie and a fondness for modern life awaits on Vex's album. This often threatens to go right out there at times but is rooted always in the conventional rock band set up with a full rock drum kit and guitars dictating the direction.

With a title like Frontiers and New Technologies you might expect the technology of the music to lead to a more overtly electronic and experimental sound. Yet this is remarkably conventional at times. So much so that it eventually sinks into the sea of indistinctive bands that populate the account books of so many large record labels. Ironically, the track New Technology with its lyrics listing the trappings of the 20th century ("plastic, nylon, velcro, genetics") is, despite the odd warbling synthesizer, one of the more traditional rock/pop structures, complete with sing-a-long chorus. A few uninspiring instrumentals (Jim Watches Over Us, Omni and Cheung Ta Ta Cheung) only emphasise the band's reliance on convention as their only hope.

The latter tracks merge into one another but this doesn't create the concept album sound Vex seem to be striving for. I was intrigued by the cryptic slogan on the sleeve that says "Tubular Analogue Expressionism", but like their music, this seems to be more about the ideas behind their songs rather than how they express them, and those ideas needed much longer distillation before commiting to song form. Only the faint beeping, white noise and guitars of the unlisted eleventh track is an all too late nod in the right direction. But Vex are lost, pulling in too many divergent directions at once to succeed. 4/10

Rob Dyer