Jul 12, 2012 Web Exclusive
If you were a fan of The Morning Benders, you will not recognize the band's first album since their name change, the self-titled POP ETC. Earlier this year, the band announced a name change—they discovered "morning benders" is a homophobic slur in the U.K., so, admirably, they traded brand awareness for a non-offensive name, POP ETC.
The name change also works because this sounds like a different band. Instead of guitars, spacey drums and echoing harmonies, POP ETC features groove-y synths, drum machines, and lots of Auto-Tune. There are flashes of Morning Benders that fans will recognize—"Halfway to Heaven" features a hooky chorus and "Everything Is Gone" explores the dynamic range that made previous album Big Echo such an exciting listen. And some of the new flourishes work—the hushed anger of "Why'd You Do It Honey?" is lent a dark aggression by the backing electronics and "Keep It for Your Own" layers both old and new sounds wonderfully.
But overall, the experiments on POP ETC fall flat. The songs tend to be pale imitations of real pop and R&B, sounding a bit arch and ironic (especially lyrically) instead of sincere and believable. There are some hints of good music here, but they're buried under the experimentation of a group trying to find its new identity. (www.popetcetera.com)
Author rating: 5/10
Average reader rating: 7/10