A preening art collective that sweeps irony and forthrightness into oblivion, Fischerspooner has made a game of tightening its own noose over time. In the early days of New York's electroclash swell, straight-faced conceptualist Warren Fischer and bubbly glam ditz Casey Spooner stood as scene-makers with something approaching a vision. They put on cartoonishly gauche live spectacles backed by made-up dancers and flashy video decorations, and engaged the chattering classes in a wink-and-nod duel to expose the oily gears of hype machinery. With style-magazine editors and art mavens in its back pocket, the duo sparked a major-label bidding war, replete with over-inflated monetary boasts and arch calls for world domination. At once embarrassingly effective and hilariously overcooked, the bold swindle made Fischer and Spooner stars of a self-styled sort. But it's also made a noxious memento of their debut album #1, now out in the U.S. after two years in the import bins. To even acknowledge #1 is to endorse a deliberately hollow and airy scheme, but to ignore it is to miss one of the best musical artifacts of the nu-electro movement. Armed with a sharp ear for hooks and sexily detached atmosphere, Fischerspooner styles '80s new wave as a new model that struts and screams with production flash. The album-opening "Sweetness" dots a throbbing bass pulse with synthesized horns and frantically shifting old-school drum patterns. "The 15th" makes an unlikely electro anthem out of a song from Wire's art-punk classic 154, straining Spooner's breathy vocals through sheets of rippling aluminum. An electronic-music neophyte before he got involved with his self-described "media experiment," Fischer brings a refreshingly songful sense to his production, favoring bridges and verse changes over the loop-minded "trackiness" of so much dance music. Even without the visual cues of Fischerspooner's stage show, "Emerge" rushes through neon-lit wind tunnels with all the force of the retrofitted Fiero that Pontiac would market if it had half a brain. Reconciling Fischerspooner's dimly manipulative posturing with its music is more than can be expected of any person, but for better and worse, #1 gives plenty reason not to try.
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