Silver Cloud, Dark Lining
Fever Daydream is the debut album for L.A.- based trio, The Black Queen, led by Dillinger Escape Plan’s Greg Puciato, accompanied by collaborators Josh Eustis and Steven Alexander. Their brand of dark pop has a sci-fi edge to it, bringing a variety of influences into one undeniably stylish whole. In the landscape of electronic music, it occupies a middle ground that isn’t heavily artsy, but isn’t quite pure pop either. And that refusal to bend too far in either extreme could be a major plus or a critical downfall.
Stylistically, this record is a little confusing. It comes across initially as something dark and foreboding. There are obvious Nine Inch Nails connections in Eustis, who’s been part of Trent Reznor’s touring band. However, these connections don’t quite connect. Puciato often alludes to an intense emotional quality in The Black Queen’s music, but it doesn’t seem to come through very often. In fact, the record is often so finely polished and highly stylized that it falls a little flat.
On “Ice to Never,” a solid dance-oriented track, the band feels more like Prince than NIN. Throughout the record, songs are backed by cleanly produced beats that sometimes carry funk grooves or a bit of the dubstep tinge that’s going around these days. “Secret Scream” is a catchy pop tune with a slightly industrial feel, probably one of the album’s stronger moments, but it doesn’t hold the emotional gravity that it could and arguably should. “Distanced,” a standout track on the album, definitely delivers — the obsessive lyrics and hushed vocal delivery over eerily sparse music create an effect of desperation and alienation that infects the listener. The rest of the album, however, tends to be a little too slick to have a serious impact.
Maybe the trouble with Fever Daydream is that it doesn’t quite meet the goal it seems to set for itself. The band’s image, from its name to its promotional material, is dark. It’s all about black, smoke, mystery — the setup to a powerful emotional punch that never really comes. The quiet stretches mostly register as serene, rather than ominous. At its louder and more emotive moments, the music often feels like a kind of plastic R&B. Of course there’s nothing wrong with being serene or smooth, but in this case it just doesn’t quite seem to add up.