It’s hard to translate the bombast of a live show onto a record—especially if your band is known for multi-hour electronic jam-band improvisations (sometimes referred to as “livetronica”) and have gathered a fanbase so devoted they could rival the Deadheads in terms of dedication. And Philadelphia quartet the Disco Biscuits’s essential label releases, like 2006’s sprawling, acid-soaked The Wind at Four to Fly, have always been live albums. Planet Anthem, the band’s latest studio album, is certainly more song-focused than its predecessors, with no songs going past the diplomatic six-minute mark, but it still doesn’t fully capture why people bother paying attention to the Disco Biscuits in the first place.
If their kitschy name didn’t tip you off, the band doesn’t exactly take themselves too seriously. They seem to make music for fun more so than to pursue artistic objectives, and they’re at their best when they’re whimsical. Opening cut “Loose Change” is a Pink Floyd-esque tirade against humanity’s greed, entirely danceable with its guitar-synth cadence while also being pretty stupid in the best possible ways: “Who needs sexy when you’re filthy rich/You sexy bitch.” Planet Anthem is pretty consistently silly and it never delivers a truly major-league song, but it keeps the 55-minute runtime varied enough to prolong interest.
Planet Anthem‘s second half is surprisingly blunt, instead adapting to the more flower-haired ancestry of jam-bands. “Big Wrecking Ball” is especially traditional, with its secluded organ, white-funk bassline, and unironic cowbell. Regretfully, the majority of these tracks don’t really gel thematically or sonically with the rest of the record, and come off as filler. Thankfully, the stuff that does work (the tracks with more synths than guitars) outweighs the stuff that doesn’t. Planet Anthem cuts out the extraneous glut that has always dominated the Disco Biscuit’s catalogue to deliver a more concise, accessible package that should be able to convert new fans while sating old ones.