After first listening to His Name Is Alive 5 years ago or so, I could have never invisioned where they would go in terms of sound. Whereas the first time I heard them (on 1993's Home Is In Your Head), they were the typical 4AD band with their neo-goth, dreary output. Starting with their Stars On E.S.P. release, though, I could tell that the group was going through some serious change.
I know that I would have never guessed that they would start out an album with a moog, but that's exactly what it sounds like on the opener, "Don't Glue The World." While it doesn't stay in that territory for the entire song, the rest of the song (and the album, for that matter) finds the group in sort of an experimental pop category and it feels like they've finally found their groove. While it probably won't happen, I think that 4AD probably could take several of the songs on this disc and actually pitch them to major radio and have hits on their hands. Song after song is catchy and although some of the segments between the songs feel kind of clumsy (what's with the pseudo drum-and-bass?), I found myself bopping along with a majority of the tracks. "The Waitress" and "Can't Always Be Loved" are about the fastest songs that I've ever heard the group do, and they manage to pull them both off quite well. While there are a couple tracks that kind of bog down the disc, including the weird gospel sounding "No Hiding Place Down Her," they always manage to pick up again.
If you're a fan of the group, it's kind of hard to say whether you'd like the disc. If you're way into their older stuff, you might get upset with how bopping this effort is. If you liked the direction they were taking with Stars On E.S.P., you probably won't go wrong. It's some of the catchier pop music (although probably not quite mainstream radio friendly) that I've heard lately, and especially interesting considering what the group sounded like upon inception. I'm surprised Ivo has kept them around.