There are only five songs on the self-released Primitive Instinct, the Inflatablemen’s second full-length production recorded at AntiMatter Studios. This album is wedded to the idea of the computer-generated and mechanized future, and its connection to — as the title makes abundantly clear — something wild and uncontrollable. But if the Inflatablemen intend to address dangers and contradictions inherent in the idea of “modernity,” or perhaps to suggest that idea of modernity is in itself outdated, they fall a bit short. If their intention, though, was to lay down five tracks of emotional-but-danceable synth-electro-pop that hints at Depeche Mode, the Rentals and the Cars, they’re right on.
What seems to be intended as two ends of the millennial poles — the techno beat of disco countered by the desperate energy of new wave — become blurred together. It’s as if somewhere in the mix, someone got a bit too caught up in the lure of the machinery and forgot all about that primitive stuff they were talking about. There is a hint of the self-deprecating new wave plaintiveness and a kind of Flock of Seagulls melodic whine in voice of Fisher, the four-piece’s lead singer. At times, he does inject a sense of emotional urgency, most notably in “Ones and Zeroes,” where there is enough of a hook musically and a bite lyrically so that even the interjected “Uh oh” chorus is forgivable, even juxtaposed against lines like this: “It’s a circuit malfunction / Machine age romance.”
Overall, the predictability of the technology (even though the liner notes make it clear that live drums are used at least occasionally) make the band’s tongue-in-cheekery seem like nothing more than repetitive rehash. Any song named “Life like” but so punctually precise ought to have borrowed a bit more of the catchy sardonicism from the new wave if it wished to be more than a curiously lifeless criticism of the post-millenium world. Check out Machine Age Romance, put out on Diver City in 2001, instead.