EMF - 'Go Go Sapiens' Album Review
1. Started It
2. Sister Sandinista
3. Stay Classy San Diego
4. Crime Of Passion
5. We Are The Free
7. Keep Tt Coming
8. Never Die
9. Dr Strangelove
10. The Greatest Day
11. Sparks And Flashes
Sometimes you find the spirit of Punk hiding away in places you wouldn’t expect. It’s not a case of how tall your Mohican is, what you really think of the Sex Pistols on and off relationship with each other or how you were really there back in '77. Punk is many things. It’s standing up for your rights, it’s about doing things on your terms in your own way, it’s about doing the right thing.
Looking back on the early 90s, Punk seemed to be alive in various states on the music scene. In the states, a bunch of guitar based bands created their own raw sound that suddenly seemed to threaten the status quo that the various labels had pushed for years. In the UK Rave culture hosted underground, often illegal gatherings that would allow like minded spirits to come together and enjoy communing together with sound systems that seemed to grow from the Dub Reggae scene that ran parallel to the Punk scene of over a decade before.
EMF sprung out of a cultural melting pot that included Trance, House, Baggy and Rock. They literally appeared from out of nowhere with their debut “Schubert Dip” and it’s lead single “Unbelievable”. Another two albums followed in quick succession before the band seemed to disappear just a few years later. EMF sporadically got together every few years to play some live show but the possibility of new music seemed incredibly unlikely.
2022 sees the world in a place we’ve never know in our lifetime. There seems to be a vein of ugliness running through everything. We went quickly from “Be More Kind” to “None Of Your Kind” in a heartbeat. We became isolated in an ever connected digital world, knowing what was happening to celebrities on the other side of the world while hiding away from our families and neighbours. Community seemed nothing more than a long con.
What we weren’t expecting was a new EMF album, and we weren’t expecting it to be so damn good!
“Go Go Sapiens” opens with a slinky guitar riff from guitarist Ian Dench accompanied by some laid back James Atkin’s unmistakable vocals; imagine Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie in a slightly higher register with a softer voice, luring you in before “we’re doing it right now!” he proclaims. The party is starting now.
“Sister Sandinista” is the first single and it draws a straight line from Joe Strummer’s post-Clash band Mescaleros. In fact, this could have quite happily sat alongside “Coma Girl” and the like on “Streetcore", something I think Joe would approve of. James’ slightly processed vocals slither under your skin while the rest of the band pin down the fairly laid back groove. Ron Burgundy’s sign off “Stay Classy San Diego” spends the verse and chorus building up the beats, guitars and Electronica Funk without giving its listener the big drop pay off. But you know what, the tease is so good and it works so well.
“Crime of Passion” is more synthy than its predecessors; almost sounding like the Pet Shop Boys at times with its mix of brass and vocals. It could sound dated or twee in other hands but here EMF add a sense of urgency to the tune. It’s not spiralling away but it sounds like it could at any moment. “We are the Free” and “Equilibrium” both borrow from the band’s past while still sounding fresh.
“Keep It Coming” namechecks several bands and musicians over a hypnotic groove that feels almost big beat before it rips away with a cool descending and ascending guitar motif. The trusty house piano get’s broken out on “Never Die” as James sings “Back in 1991 when the fashion was fun.” It feels like they’re referring to their past which is enforced on the next track “Dr. Strangelove.” It’s almost like they’re taking elements from years ago while managing to update everything. It’s not a nostalgia trip; when EMF are looking back they’re acknowledging what they managed to achieve.
The album starts to draw to a close with a change of pace. “The Greatest Day” is the sound of reflection; “We’re getting old but we’re not bitter” is possibly the key line of the album. They’re not drowning in melancholy, instead it feels like they’re keeping above the waves with a feeling of gratitude. Closer “Sparks and Flashes” drives itself along with Electronica and guitar, pulsing keys throb like the electronic superhighway.
“Go Go Sapiens” is the sound of a band that’s able to look back on its own legacy while not wanting to rest on its laurels. They’re not churning out “Unbelievable 2022” but are instead fashioning their own sound and future. It’s not a nostalgia trip that EMF take us on, it’s the sound of musicians that know their place in a world that finally seems to have caught up to them. EMF have given us an album of weight, poise and grace that’s wrapped up in the melody and hook of great Pop music. They are doing everything on their own terms, at their own pace and that should be applauded.
Punk is dead. Long live the new old punks.
Website - emf-theband.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/EMFTheBand
Review - Scott Hamilton