You expect a trio from southeastern Michigan to know something about propulsion. And while much of the new ‘80s revival has as much depth as a VH1 program, World Series of Love works with a real sense of combustion.
From the first time a stick snaps off of the snare drum on “Dead Cat”, Midwest Product seems intent on proving that a real heart beats at the center of their electronic constructions. Sure, the listener will be reminded of some ’80s touchstones; New Order, Depeche Mode and the snappier side of OMD circa Architecture & Morality. Unlike most Electroclash acts, fixated on surface and quick to lean on their progenitors when inspiration runs shallow (“Look kids, it’s Iggy Pop!” “Say, aren’t you Tina Weymouth?”), Midwest Product is very much a self-generated band.
Which is why this EP’s only real dud, “Bank”, comes off as such a disappointment. Drummer Chad Pratt affects a blank, po-faced vocal straight off of Kraftwerk’s “Pocket Calculator” along side a nursery-rhyme synth melody. The band veers off on an instrumental vector midway through that almost redeems the track, but by then the damage is done.
The third track, “Swamp”, picks up the slack by organizing itself around a quivering synth melody that is joined by a delicate guitar line. As one of the stronger tracks on the recording, it nicely demonstrates the band’s strengths. The skeletal fortitude of the song is provided by a real band, playing real instruments. The layers of synthetic percussion and sound effects are all arranged around a melodic progression and real-time playing. The stilted and looped rhythms that hogtie a lot of electronic music are not present here. Neither is the self-indulgent noodling that typifies a lot of instrumental rock. Midwest Product is not afraid to lean on its melodies and let the songs develop under the power of a flexible rhythm section. A great example is the way pointillist electro balances off against a more strained synthetic melody on “Duckpond” before a driving guitar and drums take the song over and move it forward.
There are still some self-imposed barriers between Midwest Product and total success on World Series of Love. Although “Avant Poop” surges along nicely behind a lockstep rhythm, there are some unnecessary found vocals that add little to the track before it pivots around into an effective flow. Despite these lapses, there is a lot to recommend on World Series of Love. Not the least of which is price – as a seven song EP, it represents a good investment. Midwest Product’s range and execution result in a ton of potential; unlike so many folks working their side of the street, this band does not see the tools of its expression as ends in themselves.
By Bruce Adams