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In my music library, The Slants slot in between French dance group The Shoes and noise-pop duo Sleigh Bells. And this is a pretty fitting place for The Slants to be. If you were to throw in a good dash of Billy Idol, The Killers and a hint of euro-pop sheen you'd be close to the spirit, if not the sound of the melting pot that is self-styled "SteamPunks" The Slants latest album, 'The Yellow Album'. It's a brief intro then The Slants jump-start the album with the flash mob that is 'Con Kids'. All punching synths, heavily inflected vocals and driving drums 'Con Kids' quickly lays out its manifesto. The song kicks you along, but the somewhat mono-tone production stifles a vibrant song. Where you want the drums to crash, beats to really break and vocals to be really full, the production flatness means that 'Con Kids' passes without making the impact it could. Faring better, second track 'Love Letters From Andromeda' is richer and fuller. In its spacey synths and warmer vocals, it recalls '90s one-hit-wonders Babylon Zoo. It's a step forward from 'Con Kids' and it's chorus stays with you long after it's finished.
'Adopted' starts strongly, but missteps on the verses. It has groove ridden guitars and drums, but where the song should leap out and give you a sky-scraping chorus it falters and sounds hollow. It has the potential to hit 30 Seconds To Mars' epic pomp but misses. Looser, and better for it, 'Misery' immediately shakes you awake; a pulsing, nu-goth, 21st century take of a new romantic song. As if Duran Duran has been fed a cocktail of ecstasy, Red Bull and William Gibson. Now it seems The Slants have hit their shimmering stride. 'Unconventional Ways' keeps the new romantic undercurrent, but sweeps up more contemporary sounds and the strongest vocals yet, close to Daryl Plumbo on his Head Automatica side-project. The song has a irresistible rhythm and would fill any dancefloor. A slight change of pace, and possibly the best track so far, 'Let The Right One In' follows; an introspective tale of "living in the dark", it rails back the synths and is more raw and organic with a human feel. 'Let The Right One In' still resides in a slightly altered future reality. But it is a strong plea for love to find a way out of the dark. Its organic bent reminds of a hyper-coloured Depeche Mode. 'Just One Kiss' similarly indulges in electronic goth, with vocals strongly reminiscent of Dave Gahan. In parts the song works well, but has a somewhat disjointed feel that doesn't quite knit the parts together.
With a warm surprise, 'Rescue From My Own Heart' opens with some strong female vocals, and these work so well you wonder why The Slants haven't employed them before. A sci-fi call and response duet, the female could easily carry the song, and as a consequence this is one of the album's strongest tracks. The next couplet of tracks bring little variation or strength to the album, and are quite disposable. They both sit in a now well worn groove and end up being forgettable. 'Sew Hearts' is the pacier of the two, but instead of having a Killers pomp and style, it also passes by without much to grab onto. Even a power metal solo does little to redeem it. Title-track and closer 'Yellow' is a more daring track, less formulaic than the three or four before it. It has a cohesion that enables it to take you on a quite epic ride to conclude the album. 'The Yellow Album' is it times challenging, and sometimes overreaches, but when it works it works well and rewards with a explosive and exciting shot of colour and sound.