July 2, 2009

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VNV Nation, Of Fath Power and Glory
Red Distribution, June 23

It’s a little inside baseball, but the trend toward sending digital copies of albums to reviewers is a royal pain in the can, especially when the copies have such weak signals that they cause certain brands of burn CDs to skip all over the place, as is the case with this one, done DYI-style by singer Ronan Harris, who should by now be way too famous even to have to bother with nonsense like that. But even relegated to being played over PC speakers, VNV’s promise that this is their liveliest album since Empires rings true. Harris once again applies his limited but uniquely striking two-or-so-octave baritone to ranting politely to stupid humans about their stupidity in the face of mass inhumanity on the world socio-poli-military stage, a stance that’s now as quaint as the notion that Super-Obama will defeat the homicidal insurance companies, zoom past the racist Fox/Limbaugh cartel that takes kickbacks from same, and at last deliver the basic human right of single-payer health care. Too tired, but, as mentioned, the band’s delivery is much improved from their unremarkable 2007 effort, Judgment, more imperative and faith-filled, and most importantly, more, you know, catchy and danceable. To accomplish this, their trademark cardboard-ish sound has been largely abandoned (“In Defiance” is the purist-friendly old-schooler), replaced by Gary Numan-esque sympho-tech (“Tomorrow Never Comes”), Cure-inspired bliss (“Where There is Light”) and Euro-trance spazzing worthy of Mortal Kombat soundtracks (“Art of Conflict”). “The Great Divide,” a cautionary tale for lost kids thinking of joining the service, is brilliant. A — EWS