The members of Datarock seem to aspire to be a kind of new Devo, without so much Kraftwerk thrown in; in fact, their tendency toward rock instead of shimmery electronics is probably the thing keeping them from being shamefully derivative instead of acceptably derivative. The band’s matching outfits certainly attest to this fact, and if vocalist Fredrik Saroea sang like a robot, the similarities would be overwhelming. Actually, if the standard, strutting, male dance-rock vocal sounds robotic to you, then there’s a pretty good chance that this is an analogy that you’ve already made.
Red, Datarock’s second full-length album, is full of shiny dance sonics and jagged rock edges. It is consistently foot-tappable, and occasionally, if you really let the music carry you away, you’ll let your head nod, as well. Those certainly aren’t listener responses that any artist should kick out of bed, but they’re not on the top of the mountain, either.
The biggest problem with Red is that as obvious as Datarock’s aesthetic is, it’s still boring, and it doesn’t stick to the tracks at all. Tracks like “Amarillion” and “The Pretender” maintain a mental groove from start to finish, but they all leave the listener as soon as they’re over. If Datarock was producing tracks of undeniable aural gravity, then their vacuous image wouldn’t really matter so much, but since they’re not, it matters a lot.
The dearth of substance in Datarock’s image probably has a lot to do with the fact that dance rock, the group’s chosen genre, seems conducive to the creation of middling work. It’s as if the decision to make “dance rock” somehow forces bands to lay bland, overconfident vocals over milquetoast instrumentation.
Sure, Red does have its moments. When the lyric “Dancing is/ Everything…” plays in the track “Dance,” for a second it seems like a better-than-average pop moment. Then I think, “Well, shouldn’t I be dancing, then?” And it becomes clear that the moment was just that: a moment.