If Digitalism set out only to be ranked alongside the behemoths of electro-house (particularly Daft Punk and Justice), then they already met their goal with their 2007 debut, Idealism. What quickly becomes clear on their latest album, though, is that the Hamburg duo is frantically fishing for a crossover smash, and Jens Moelle is hell-bent on watermarking said smash with his own dissonant voicebox. I Love You Dude boasts some sublime cuts that should fill any dance floor, and these tracks thump and throb to the nth degree, but the album loses serious momentum when it feebly panders to indie-disco trends.
It almost feels as though Moelle and partner ?smail Tüfekçi got lucky with the album’s lead single, “2 Hearts,” which bounces along to an infectious chorus and a flurry of euphoric drops, because their other forays into verse-chorus-verse structures are unqualified disappointments: “Circles” is a repetitive cycle of unremarkable hooks and jarring vocals, while “Forest Gump” is a clusterfuck of messy basslines and unseemly guitar parts. As much as the duo must want to escape being pigeonholed as a Justice-lite house outfit (though this style is something they are very good at), their music is far less compelling when they venture away from their electronica roots.
I Love You Dude is best when it plays like Idealism‘s direct sequel. “Stratosphere” is a bass-heavy blitz that kick-starts the album superbly, reacquainting listeners with the same trashy disco swagger that we’ve come to expect from Digitalism. Similarly, the likes of “Blitz” and “Reeper Bahn” play on syncopated beats and booming grooves to craft some truly immense sounds, both deserving to be blared from the most substantial set of speakers you can lay your hands on.
As the album stampedes into its final third, the dreamy synthesized rapture of “Just Gazin’” provides a terrific change of pace without resorting to the half-baked attempts at pop that plague the collection’s weaker moments. An acoustic guitar melody and a robotic choral section endow the track with its serene backcloth, and an anonymous female singer uses her soothing voice to put an accent mark on an already serene number.
Like almost all of I Love You Dude‘s standout songs, “Just Gazin’” relies heavily on sampling, thus stripping Moelle of microphone duties and relegating him to his proper place behind the mixing console. Digitalism is at their best when immersing themselves in the trappings and embellishments of full-blown electronica, and they tend to suffer when trying to escape them.