That the duo Fuck Buttons hail from the U.K. is somewhat surprising; after all, in both sound and aesthetic their most obvious kinship is with post-millennial American noise and experimental pop. Playing like a grand summation of all that has been accomplished in those spheres since the turn of the century, Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power’s debut Street Horrrsing is certainly accomplished. Having ditched the harsh aggro of their formative years (the pair first convened in 2004), they thus bow with a six-track long-player that feels nothing if not well rehearsed and fully formed. At the same time, though, there’s an overwhelming lack of spontaneity on display here, one that replaces their experimental antecedents’ penchant for exploration with an almost rote trail through a few heavily dog-eared pages.
So here is exactly what Fuck Buttons do: they take standard noise timbres and sounds and couch them in exceedingly simple melodies. The drones are static-caked, the tones occasionally bristling, the vocals often distorted to the point of unintelligibility; in all, however, it’s underpinned with an simple melodic base that makes each of these six tracks pillow-soft and easy to digest. Time and again, Hung and Power are at their best when they eschew the simple drone mantras for more intricate territory, rhythmic and otherwise. “Ribs Out,” for example, manages a neat balance between acoustic and programmed percussion, offering a heady echospace in which all manner of vocal bleats cascade into the distance. Likewise on “Bright Tomorrow,” Fuck Buttons place the focus square on the rhythm, tracing waifish melodies and buzzing distortion around an insistent thump that implies disco more than it does outright noise.
Elsewhere, if it all sounds a little familiar, that’s precisely because it is. These same urban tribal percussive swoops that rear their head from time to time sound as if they were pinched from middle-period Animal Collective or Beaches and Canyons Black Dice. That gauzy distension that marks tracks “Okay, Let’s Talk About Magic” comes right out of Growing’s notebook. All of these are great sounds, in and of themselves; here, however, they sound as if they’ve been positioned strictly with 2001 as a starting point. Thus, while each of these markers have plenty of antecedents in the pantheon of great experimental artists, here they can sound thin and underworked, less like a series of ideas cresting to the top and more like a mimicked style.
There are moments, however, when Hung and Power lock into something truly ecstatic, creating passages that more than account for the tremendous amount of pre-release hype that’s been softballed toward these two. The closing “Colours Move” accentuates Fuck Buttons’ capable strengths, stretching rusty percussion and two-note synth lines to infinity, creating a delicately layered piece that leaves one hoping these guys will take their attention to detail and well-plotted ideas into more far-flung territory in the future.