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The Apples in Stereo - Travellers in Space and Time

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Artist: The Apples in Stereo

Album: Travellers in Space and Time

Label: Yep Roc

Review date: May. 4, 2010

Here’s a depressing thought. Robert Schneider has seen the future…and it looks a lot like 1970s AM radio.

The seventh full-length from the Elephant 6’s psych-bubblegum survivors owes a heavy debt to polyester-era acts like Hall & Oates, Michael Jackson and, especially, ELO, all shipped off in a Ed Wood-style tinfoil spaceship. It’s futuristic, but only in a jokey Planet 9 sort of way, with repeated use of vocoders and gleaming, plasticky synths. But in the more important, musical way, it’s a rocket-sized throwback to a period that, really, does anyone miss?

Who, after all, could pine for the Abba-sugared disco that inspired way-too-cute “Dance Floor”? Who’s jonesing so bad for an ‘N Sync fix that they’ll welcome the boy-band smirk of “Dream About the Future”? And does anyone really believe that Robert Schneider has invented a new logarithmic scale, a series of notes that no one has ever heard before, and that it provides the foundation for the silly “C.P.U.”? All these songs are so fizz-pop adorable that you feel like you’re being crushed to death by cotton candy. This has always been a relentlessly cute band, but with Travellers the sugar quotient has gone up to diabetes-inducing proportions.

The first half of this album is so annoying that you might give up before you hit a few of the better songs, all tucked away after the halfway point. “Dignified Dignitary” slings crunchy power chords like the Apples circa The Discovery of a World Inside the Moone. “Next Year At About the Same Time” has a psychedelic drive and drift that might remind you of Olivia Tremor Control (whose Bill Doss is now a full time Apple). And, this is cheating, but drummer John Dufilho’s sole songwriting contribution “Floating in Space” has the understated longing of his best work from the Deathray Davies, plus a few space squiggles and echos. Even the ELO rips get better as you go along, culminating in the swirling, verging on Beatles-lush “Wings Away,” in the penultimate position.

Travellers in Space and Time makes you wish that there actually was a way to reach the future, a time when you won’t have to listen to it anymore. But for now, at least we have the skip button.

By Jennifer Kelly

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