I wasn’t aware of My Robot Friend until accidentally discovering his adorable world of bleep through another great artist – Solvent. It was around 2009 and Solvent happened to be remixing one of My Robot Friend’s then current singles called “Waiting”. The song featured guest vocalist Alison Moyet and Solvent delivered his remix of the song in obsessively pleasant Yazoo-ish style which got me searching for more of My Robot Friend himself. Originally featuring on the album (MFR’s third) “Soft-Core”, the song adds to the sweet pulp of the electro-acoustic rollercoaster that is at the same time uplifting and tristful, sexually daring and incredibly sarcastic in places.
And while you may expect a rather automated sound suggested from a “robot” point of view, My Robot Friend’s music is anything but – and his brand new record once again brings a nice balance between heart, soul and machine. While Soft-Core’s signature sound remains evident, the suggestively titled “Open the Book” adds to further eclectic gloss expanding in melancholic breeze, a gorgeous collection of short stories about love and loss.
The album kicks off with “Goodbye” – as literal as that, spicing up the very start of the album with a rather introspective message, parting with the loved one (“I stay up all night waiting, hoping for the pain to die – I wish I knew how to say goodbye”)… On My Robot Friend’s You Tube channel, there is a touching video presentation of Andre Williams, who sings on this record (although not on this particular song) – talking about the loss of the most important person in his life – his mother, pointing out the word’s painful, ultimate means to an end. The song itself got spinning around the virtual globe a few years back, symbolically forming a bridge between My Robot Friend’s last album and the new one (along with a hilarious rendition of “It’s Raining Cats”, which is not included here).
Several writers add to the “Book” – guitarist Dean Wareham (of Galaxie 500 fame) returns after guesting on “Soft-Core”; contributing to a stunning atmospheric tune along MRF’s beautifully nostalgic vocal harmonies on “Emancipated Hearts” and the closing track “Gone” (which starts pulsating slightly in the style of OMD’s “Messages”) – extra pluses go to the string arrangement along the electronic backing in both songs. Again Dean, this time with Britta (Phillips, that is – courtesy of Luna, the band also formed by Wareham) contribute to an energetic rocky number “I’m Not a Young Man Anymore”. “Shipwrecked” is probably the most brutal song in terms of lyrics – the pleasant singing voice as if addressing attention seekers (“Drifting into deeper water, hoping no one hears you cry – every time a ship comes close, you wait and watch it pass you by…”) describing the state of the world we live in, drowning further into indifference and selfishness (“Wait until the ship is sinking, wait until you lose your nerve, wait forever, wait for nothing, wait and get what you deserve…”)
“909” is a feel-good floorkiller tune – a catchy ode to creating one’s own entertainment (“When the sequencer starts, I lose my self control”). “Practical Joke” may follow a similar dance floor pattern only with a darker tone, not that distant from a song Pet Shop Boys would simply kill for.
The adorable groove and fun continue with “Creep” – whose main star shining especially bright throughout this collection is Andre Williams (singer with the band the Five Chimes), a young r’n’b vocalist featuring as a guest on four songs – first in a row being this odd little techno-esque rendition of a TLC 90s’ hit, which may add to the confusion, albeit a pleasant one, by mixing Williams’ r’n’b falsetto with twisted electronics. Albeit a strange choice of a cover version, “Creep” successfully avoids the cheesiness, adding a spine to the idea of a song that is so typically saccharine in its original version.
Williams spreads his lungs on the original material – “Open The Book” is a downright amazing tour-de-force toe-tapping number with an intelligent lyric sheet addressing a break-up (“You left me when the story got rough, I gave you my all but it was never enough, now the ink on the page is getting lighter and i feel like a key on an old typewriter”). “Now I Know” sounds like a weird mix of an early morning children’s programme tune and r’n’b-meets-country subverted with electronics – all encompassing a personal note from a diary (“I lied to myself every day, we spent our lives together, I pretended that forever meant the clouds would move along”). “For You” continues in a pleasant melancholy tone to a pleasant electro-acoustic music mix with a sharp confessing note (“It sounds like the truth but you know its a lie, a paper moon hanging in the sky”).
And this is how true pop music should sound – and does, for repeated listens, honest and unpretentious, with a personal touch yet the listener can identify with it, the songs are a little short of minutes though… but that’s exactly when they grab you – after they end (almost abruptly) only to make you yearn for more.
“Open the Book” is available on CD and digital download directly from http://www.myrobotfriend.com/