The perfect pop single is 3:30 in length and is the starting point for this EP. Yet despite their radio-friendly length, these six nuggets will never make the pop charts. This is a shame, because even the edgiest pop smash, such as “Royals”, is boundary-bending rather than boundary-smashing. Pop music changes only in increments, and the distance between “Royals” and bonus track “ffmod_” (heard below) is far greater than the distance between “Rock Around the Clock” and “Royals”. To re-appropriate the words of John Mayer, if you’re just sitting here waiting on the world (of music) to change, don’t hold your breath.
So if it’s not the length that makes a single a hit, what is it? One can make the case that people shy away from instrumentals, and they’d be correct. But we often find verses and choruses within instrumentals, as we do on these tracks, and occasionally they do become hits. (The last instrumental #1 in the U.K: Mr. Oizo’s “Flat Beat”, 1999; the last instrumental #1 in the U.S.: Jan Hammer’s “Miami Vice” theme, 1985). When Jeff Carey recorded as 87 Central (1999-2008), he occasionally used beats, although his work remained far from the mainstream. Now it’s down to blast and abrasion. Even these elements can survive the mainstream when hitched to hip-hop and metal; but they can’t survive on their own.
Carey is not trying to make a hit, and we’re not hoping to hear one. [3:30] is 22 minutes of roar and boom. The pop form is used, but this is not pop. “Ballast” makes a bombastic entrance, sounding like kettle drums dropped down the stairs during a lightning storm as every alarm in the house goes off. Play this for those who blithely claim, “I like all kinds of music.” Oh, do you? There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy. “Node” contains a percussive exchange that sounds like an electronic duet. But if pressed to pick a single, it would be the thick, bashing “1001”, in which a chorus can be construed, played by amplified hammers. The machine-gun-in-a-tornado of “Lock” would make a fitting follow-up, as it references industrial and drillcore. Play this song atop any current pop hit. Now that’s what I call music. (Richard Allen)