Artist: Far East Movement
Album: Dirty Bass
Genre: Hip hop/pop rap/electropop
Label: Cherrytree, Interscope
As propagators of the audaciously infectious “Like a G6,” which has been on repeat throughout the realm for what seems like an eternity, Far East Movement hardly need an introduction. However, I am moderately ashamed to admit that I had no idea they’d released three albums – this one being their fourth. For all that this wouldn’t typically be my go-to music, FEM seem particularly adept at putting together a catchy beat, intoxicating bassline, and selling it with maximum mainstream appeal. The exhausting array of supporting stars on display here further ensures crossover potential, as each song dresses up its club or hip hop origins in something sleeker, contemporary, and compulsive.
The FEM formula is pretty straightforward, and it works mostly well on Dirty Bass. The songs are simplistic yet bold, laced with attitude and fervour and all the colourful programming histrionics one could desire. It does, however, have an unfortunate tendency to rely too heavily on sugary genre splices, many of which are a little too dreary and generic and take a lot of the fun and momentum out of the record. There isn’t a stunning amount of technical wizardry on display and the tracks do tend to merge into one thumping synthetic cloud, but the album has a devilish, raucous appeal which will entertain even the most unwilling.
Opening track “Dirty Bass” features a trademark sinewy beat that worms its way almost effortlessly into your psyche. It’s the first of several on the album, and particularly effective for its cool, insidious style. “Where the Wild Things Are” is blunter, and bouncier – its winding, twisting touch proving supremely enthralling. The vocal interludes can be a bit soggy, but if one overlooks same the track has stunning impact. “If I Die Tomorrow” is undemanding and silly, but it has the relentless rhythm and slick touch needed to win over a dance floor. It also features Bill Kaulitz of the much-maligned Tokio Hotel as a guest vocalist, who sounds a lot more mature than he used to. Tis truly a wonder what the effects table can do these days. “Ain’t Coming Down” is heavier and intense – once its rather underwhelming piano overture has given way. The guest vocals (courtesy of Sidney Samson and Matthew Koma) are mostly dull and colourless, but the verses are stupendously fun. The throbbing sound effects and propulsive beat easily endear – it’s just a pity they keep interrupting this momentum with slower vocal odes. The presence of Pitbull on “Candy” speaks volumes – it’s edgy and insistent and, in typical style, mixes in Latino flourishes and vocal stylings for added bite. The lyrics are ridiculous, but its tenaciously draining beat is more than adequate compensation.
There is, presumably, a skill to fashioning songs so uproariously intoxicating out of something so basic but Far East Movement make it look very easy. Even the most hardened non-listener is likely to find something worth bopping to here, which makes it all the more irritating that the other half of the album is so drenched in soapy misfires. Justin Bieber is unique for being at once the most hated and the most loved pop star in the world, and his waifish vocals do nothing for “Live My Life.” The song itself is unimaginative but it does have some brooding appeal until his mundane chorus drowns all the excitement and atmosphere. “Turn Up the Love” is strategically infectious, but the inflections of a syrupy pop song make it feel lukewarm. “Flossy” is watery and frigid; defusing a lot of the mindless enjoyment by making you actually listen to something, instead of just playing a dull background thump for three and a half minutes.
“Little Bird” is the real surprise package here – it’s, well, serious. Next to all the playful ruminations that precede it, it seems bizarre at first, but as it unfolds it crystallises into a genuinely striking track. The music is largely subdued, echoed by a minimal, fragile, almost melancholic female vocalist who adds a thin, glistening layer of emotion. The lead vocal line adds a similar touch of withering despondency, and it doesn’t sound affected either. It seems a strange inclusion, but it hints at an underlying flair for gravitas and atmosphere, and that FEM can produce more substance than all their lecherous club ambitions would suggest.
The bonus tracks include a few remixes for the Biebz army and the ubiquitous “Like a G6,” but Dirty Bass is tremendous fun even without these add-ons. It’s determined and slick and will likely find a happy purpose in burning up dance floors for months to come.
Review written by Grace Duffy