Single Review: Pendulum – ‘The Island, Pt. 1 – Dawn’


If I were to describe the music business today – a place where the ‘hottest’ trends/genres only lasts for a matter of five years at most – I would use the phrase “Dog Eat Dog”, purely because you often find music trends changing over such short spaces of time, and the result is a fiery feud between all of today’s popstars, their music trends, and their ravenous desperation for radio airplay. You’re not the only one who is aware of this: the mainstream pop acts themselves realise it too. And because of this, it’s no surprise that some acts change their sound from album to album to suit the current pop trends in order to appeal to brighter, larger, fresher market. So one album could be completely non-commercial, and the next, very commercial, and the one after that, still very commercial, but even more current.

The results are often very polarized: it either works well or it doesn’t. An example of someone who hasn’t done too well since changing their sound is Gabriella Cilmi, who’s soul/doo-wop style was thrown out of the window in favour of a (quite good) electropop sound. But there are those who tried and succeeded at changing their sound on their most recent albums, like The Hoosiers, McFly, and Plan B. But very rarely, do you find an act who try this feat on just one album.

Imagine Madonna knocking out a blues record, or Scissor Sisters releasing an operatic single. Can’t do it? I’m not surprised. And similarly, there are some acts in the music business who, talented as they are, can’t do every genre and expect everything that becomes of it to be a massive hit. Cue Pendulum, whose latest album ‘Immersion’ combines songs with a typical Pendulum sound (‘Witchcraft’, ‘Crush’) with some that are slightly less Pendulum-y, and a little more commercial (‘The Island, Pt. – Dawn’, ‘Encoder’).

‘The Island, Pt. 1 – Dawn’ is undoubtedly Pendulum’s most commercial single offering to date, dropping the distortion and thundering drum loops in place of a synthesised melody and a simple drum beat. Almost sounding like a dub-step/drum ‘n’ bass hybrid genre; it’s to Pendulum’s last single ‘Witchcraft’ what a feather would do to your ear… when it lands on a carpeted floor, through a ten-foot thick wall of lead. Basically, it doesn’t touch it.

But, seeing as Pendulum have taken the time to compose a commercial mainstream pop song for the first time ever, it’s only right and proper that we show the same amount of courtesy when reviewing it.

When we are actually listening to the main refrain, it’s very good, with scaling synth melodies and a very infectious production, but once Rob Swire sends his vocals coursing into your ear-drums, the song falls flat. If you can remember my scathing review of The Script’s new single, ‘For The First Time’ (which grew into a 3 star song), I thought that it their comeback took forever to reach anything remotely catchy, and in a musical climate where people like Ke$ha and Lady GaGa pile more hooks than backstage at London Fashion Week onto every line of their songs, it’s very easy to just all off the radar for simply not having the memorable factor, as is the case with 70% of ‘The Island, Pt. 1 – Dawn’.

You find yourself waiting for that main riff to come back whenever it’s not there, it’s what holds the song together and stops it becoming something quite boring and dullard. Despite Rob’s velvet, heavily-accented vocals, the song does meander nowhere until the riff brings all the loose ends and sticks them back together with Pritt Stick, only to fall apart again once it leaves.

However, you can be sure that the video for ‘The Island, Pt. 1 – Dawn’, follows the typical Pendulum trend of “slightly weird and sometimes controversial, satanic, and violent””.

[Side note: This one’s only weird, but still, I really do feel for this woman]

I thought my mornings were hard.

Pendulum weren’t having an off day when they wrote this track; the accompanying ‘The Island, Pt. 2 – Dusk’ (featured on ‘Immersion’), proves this, so it’s clearly just a bid to go commercial, and it has actually paid off in a sense. To those drum ‘n’ bass purists who haven’t been pleased by anything Pendulum have done since ‘Slam’, this will be like going up to some random guy on the subway and asking to tickle his balls, but keeping in mind that this was written for a commercial market, to the casual listener, it does achieve it’s goal.

Rating: 3.5 STARS

Download: September 20, 2010 (OUT NOW)

Featured Album: ‘Immersion’

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