Cambridge indie rockers Atomised (named after the edgy French novel by Michel Houellebecq?) release their new album ‘Virtual Strangers’, a follow-up to ‘Dreamlands’ from 2008. They are an accomplished six-piece band, producing an intense and multi-faceted sound.
The opening track is the curiously named ‘Tinselhead’, a guitar driven relentless blaster, setting the agenda for this varied collection of songs.
‘Slipping On Tightropes’ is more mellow, sounding like it could belong comfortably in the Suede back-catalogue. As on many of these tracks the many and subtle guitar effects are meticulously crafted. A title like ‘Fading Polaroid’ is suitably evocative for probably my favourite piece on the album, with a piano line underpinning a touching love song, strongly vocalised by Andrew Ashworth.
‘Virtual Strangers’ is the epic cinematic title track, at nearly seven minutes the different sections describe how our life is driven by modern digital technology ‘zeros and ones…changes our lives’ . It is all a bit bleak lyrically but strangely powerful and addictive (and just when you are feeling alienated a trumpet line soars across the mix to give hope..). In these days of bland lyrics from so many performers it is always refreshing to hear something more reflective/incisive/political.
‘Why Can’t We Be Lovers?’ is the impassioned vocal plea on the next track over a dense but well-balanced backing. ‘Impossible World’ is a quieter contrast, until an explosive drum break takes the sound into a different direction. The album closes with the acoustic country-rock of ‘We’re OK’, an optimistic counterpoint to some of the themes that have come before.
Overall, a very impressive achievement, with some of the 80s and 90s influences distilled into a bold set of ambitious well-produced songs.