The Russian Futurists
The Weight’s On the Wheels
Upper Class Recordings
[Rating: 3 stars]
With a band name as spacey as The Russian Futurists, one might expect this synth/sample-based indie pop project (solely comprised of electronic songsmith Matthew Adam Hart) to be influenced by Pink Floyd as much as The Postal Service. And the album cover for The Weight’s On the Wheels–a painting which depicts an English nobleman in horseback freefall—definitely won’t serve as eye candy for indie rockers scanning the shelves in their local record store haunts. But the most tuneful tracks compactly wrapped inside this long-awaited follow-up to 2005’s acclaimed Our Thickness are pop goldmines, reveling in lo-fi, homespun charm.
Opener “Hoeing Weeds Sowing Seeds” sets the template, offering chopped-up whooshes, bleeps, and bloops, cheaply programmed drums and sugary synths bubbling with intensity underneath Hart’s wordy, catchy vocal stew—”Let’s shoot this ruthless plot in the arm!” he emotes, demonstrating both his knack for dense wordplay and hummable melodies. “Golden Years” is a groovy highlight, with bastardized electric guitar fragments circling in a sea of accidental reverb—Hart’s in a lovesick, pissed-off mood, lamenting his “younger days, too underpaid,” filled with remorse over “some young girl that’s oh so fetchin’.”
When Hart’s at his best, the results are revelatory. But Wheels pushes the “cute” button too hard too often, resulting in corny, half-baked jams like “One Night, One Kiss” (an overlong call-and-response, cat-and-mouse duet with Heavy Blinkers’ vocalist Ruth Minnikin). And occasionally—at his most enunciated and harshly spoken—Hart’s vocals are borderline grating; on those less-than-stellar moments, the whole enterprise starts to sound more like a screamo vocalist’s embryonic electronic side-project than a full-fledged album.
Unfortunately, The Weight’s On the Wheels isn’t consistent enough to justify a five-year wait. But with the presence of so many excellent tracks, it would be unwise to write off Hart as a poser. He’s not—the dude’s got a knack for melody and crafting a tune out of what literally seems like thin air (and perhaps a shitty beat program). Let’s just hope it doesn’t take another five years for a more fully-realized sequel.