Nothing is certain except that everything will change. The fact that change is one of the only things you can count on in life is sometimes hard to deal with. Some bands present you a different nuance of the same sound on each album, which can result in the complaint they release the same album again and again. Some bands go with the flow and just release music they feel like making. This is an adventurous path: you may win some fans, but you also might lose them along your route.
The past few weeks I have listened to Vtora Mladost, Treta Svetska Vojna (2nd youth, 3rd world war) over and over again. It made me philosophical about the change in their musical course and changes in general. My relationship with Bernays Propaganda has been a bit rocky. The first time I heard some of their music was after the release of their third album: Zabraneta Planeta. It didn’t click right away. Still, there was something on that record that had come back again and again. So in the end I gave in and bought the album. I started working backwards in their catalogue and discovered a raw and unpolished version of the band on My Personal Holiday, which became my favorite album by the band.
Then came Politika. It marked a shift in sound. The core of their sound was always very dance-able. The combination of driving drums and simple, but very catchy and effective bass lines drove their sound. The guitars and their attitude added the punk edge that made this band so attractive. That punk edge was dropped on Politika. The venomous and urgent delivery of the vocals remained, but the guitar took a back seat. It was largely replaced by very 80’s sounding synths. It was a difficult album for me, as that punk-edge made their records so great to me. This evolution has continued on Vtora Mladost, Treta Svetska Vojna. The guitars already took a backseat on Poitika. They are joined there by the venom that Kristina used to spit and the drums.
On this album the drummer is helped or replaced by a drum machine. Some bands thrive on mechanical sounding drums; I usually am not a big fan of that sound. Especially not when the drum beat is simply replaced by a beat. So that was slightly disappointing. There is a bigger problem and that is in the vocal department. I no longer hear the urgency in Kristina’s voice. Instead of spitting her social or political criticism in my face she sounds like she is sugar-coating it. This does not do her voice justice. She really shines when she sounds strong and angry. It also seems the vocal lines are not exactly in her comfort zone. It sounds a bit uneasy at times.
I may seem very harsh on this album and perhaps I am. So let’s focus on the good stuff for a bit. I really enjoyed the horn sections, especially on the first two songs. These brass sections really add a new dimension. Also, the krautrock influenced “Ne Sme Fini Eden So Drug” sounds very chill. Let’s not forget the artwork. It is simple, but very powerful! Finally, on this record, as on Politika, (almost) all lyrics are in Macedonian. I think this is a smart thing to do although the message of the lyrics is lost on me this way. I have to trust the promo-sheet that states the lyrics deal with political/public and domestic/interpersonal violence as two sides of the same coin and that the band has not lost hope. In the past Bernays Propaganda released songs with English lyrics as well and that always sounded a bit off. So this is a wise choice in my opinion.
With this record Bernays Propaganda is confirming their transition from the punk underground to dance-floors all around the world. It is a transformation that is not finished yet. This album sounds a bit uneasy at times as if they themselves need to get used to their new sound. There’s a couple of catchy tracks on this record that could make this transition a success (the opening and closing track are the highlights I think, the latter being the only full out dance track) and performing live should help them get there. This transformation will lose them some fans and gain some others. As those dance-floors are not where I feel at home it saddens me to conclude that this record is where the band and I say goodbye to each other. If you enjoy some (relaxed) dance-floor hymns this might be right up your alley and you might want to add a couple of points to my score.
7.0 / 10
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