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The Bad Examples - Profis Like Us

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Artist: The Bad Examples

Album: Profis Like Us

Label: Ata Tak

Review date: Jul. 15, 2002

There’s a great moment in Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket when tragic-hero Dignan attempts to lure his frustrated accomplice Anthony back into his car after a brief altercation. After several failed attempts Dignan haplessly asks “Well does the fact that I’m tryin to do it, do it for you?” Krautrockers The Bad Examples' recent Profis Like Us, although carefully plotted and well executed, ends up sounding much like Dignans’ disappointed decree—the fact that they are trying to do it just doesn’t do it for us.

The Bad Examples formula is a familiar one: warm analog synthesizers, organs and keyboards accompanied by various drum machines and samplers; mellow instrumental music, vaguely cinematic which has a de facto modern Krautrock sound. This would not be so disappointing if it weren't so formulaic. Each song takes a simple keyboard pattern, applies some background static or noise and adds a subtle Casio sounding beat underneath it. The results range from the vaguely lounge-y title track “Profis like us” to the darker night themes (there are 4 “night themed” compositions on the album). Sporadically live upright bass is added to a decent effect; one gains the sense that there is a human behind the electronic façade. This is the case with “night theme 2”, which is enhanced by a great upright bass line and sounds like something that would not be out of place on Air’s Virgin Suicides soundtrack. Similarly, “night_theme 4”, an eerie keyboard drone, works well within the context of the album. In fact, the “night themes” are The Bad Examples at their best: the sound is full, comfortable and hypnotic. It’s when attempting pop (“soulful netzteil”) or robotic mimicry (“let’s pretend we’re sequencer”) that the music drags on. During these songs one comes away with a sense that the band is “playing at” the music, trying to create a semblance of a “pop” sound without really exploring it. These are the moments when the band tries too hard, and it shows. When practicing this kind of empty aesthetic the music sounds too stale. It might be that this distanced approach is intentional, a way to contrast the more lush passages on the album, but I doubt it and either way, it disappoints.

I think one reason why this album falls short is the interesting and exciting music coming out of Germany right now: the synth-pop of B. Fleischmann (and most of his Morr Music cohorts), the more complex instrumentalism of Kriedler and the calculated beats of Couch. Even outside of this German context, The Bad Examples fare no better — it is nearly impossible to get past the cookie cutter sound they’ve developed. With so much interesting music being made that combines elements of electronics with live instruments, there is a necessity, an urgency to do something unique. This delinquent strategy is the downfall of Profis Like Us.

By Marc Gilman

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