The Future of Synth-Rock (First Humans)
Reviewed by Libby Webster, Fri., Aug. 9, 2019
Listening to Pataphysics' jittery new 29-track album feels somehow like being sucked into a television set and trapped in a loop of deranged, demonic Eighties commercials. "Wheeled Warriors," for instance, is actually a breakneck pseudo-jingle. While Devo serves as an obvious sonic touchstone on the latest from this local quartet, Pataphysics' third synthed-out LP rarely veers into catchy territory, instead zigzagging around unpredictable absurdity at whiplash speed. Pat Healy's voice goes from a low vibrato to a theatrical screech on the title track, promising, "We are the future of synth rock," before he swings around to implore, "Don't listen to Brian Eno!" Later, "(FT) Fax Machine" rails against cubicle culture with the near-gleeful whoop, "Fuck the fax machine." Soon thereafter, one track whines for 13 seconds about being trapped in a cave ("The Cave"). Despite the more palatable moments – the catchy "Cool Ride" or the gorgeous synths undulating beneath Healy's electrifying emotive shrieks on "Sports" – The Future of Synth-Rock never quite lets you settle in with the titular promise.