When Gauteng rock outfit The Parlotones open their new album, Radio Controlled Robot (Sovereign) with Louder than Bombs, an ebullient, glamorous rock’n'roll concoction a(grave) la The Darkness, one suspects something exciting is in the air. And, as the funky rock of track two, Overexposed, is launched by a guttural, Tom Jones-like growl, one of the most exciting (and well-produced, thanks to Dave Birch) rock albums of the year starts to unfold.
Moving on from the “shiver shake shudder” of Overexposed, there’s the earnest, sharply accentuated Rock.Paper.Scissors (“I no longer wish to fall in love”) before Colourful slows the tempo slightly with a sweetly melodic construction that brings Ocean Colour Scene to mind. Dragonflies and Astronauts is cynical with more clever sound play abounding in the lyrics, before the title track with its warbled vocals slides into the interlude, titled The Impossible, a grand yet simple piano-led duet that slices the album neatly in two.
Then comes more Brit-rock work on No Place to Hide, the catchy Dangerous, a bit of Oasis’ style shining through on Funny Face, the energetic and epic-sounding Motivated and so forth, with solid vocals well supported by the instrumentation.
The last track here, the lively cover of Boom Boom Room’s creepy 1980s hit Here Comes a Man (why is he “looking strangely at me” anyway?), has become a radio hit, and it’s a somewhat odd choice, perhaps the result of choosing between a cover of a proven hit and an unknown original track (but no less worthy) to draw attention to the album. Thankfully, the style in which it is covered fits well with the rest of Radio Controlled Robot.
The centrefold of the CD booklet says “I don’t want to be like that, I don’t want to be controlled”. And it seems The Parlotones have done just that: they have borrowed from Brit-pop and Brit-rock, but didn’t let these styles dictate the direction of their creativity. Well done, I say.