Total Control: Typical System

Total Control barely have to raise a finger to be pack-leading tastemakers these days, but have the still got what it takes to back up the hype?

- It was three years ago that Total Control dropped the excellent Henge Beat. With little self promotion and playing live as often as a lunar eclipse, the band still became one of Australia's most watched and anticipated acts. Now, satisfying the urges that they created with Henge Beat comes Typical System the band's second LP, does it measure up to the hype?

There were two elements that made Total Control such an appealing outfit. One was the immediacy the band used to create such a tense atmosphere, both live and on record, palpable in tracks such as See More Glass and last year's Sub Pop outing, Scene From a Marriage. On the new record it does feel as if some of this has been lost. Opener Bloody Glass packs about as much punch as chillwave in comparison to Henge's opener and a number of other tracks on here, instead of creating anticipation, follow much more of a traditional pop song format, exhibiting an obvious and frustrating constraint.

The second thing the band could really do is electronics, in the style of Gary Numan and Devo. Typical System hedges its bets, leading with 'tronics half the time and making a return to guitars for the other. Lead single, Flesh War, was, initially, confronting. It was so electronic and such a profound remove from Total Control's dark past, that if you put another band name on it, it would be completely overlooked by all the 'underground' aficionados. Similarly much of the other electronica here seems to be so stylised to the point of a complete disconnect from what the band has done before. Hunter is an exception: arpregiated synths coupled with Dan Stewart's repetitive vocal create this dark, moody world but the track falls down, latterly, fizzles out into essentially nothing. Then we get Safety Net which sounds as if it was lifted from MGMT's Congratulations. The only real difference is Stewart's voice and the occasional dolewave twang that comes with Al Montfront's guitar.

The guitar tracks on here initially feel as if they have no life. Systematic Fuck sounds like deliberate pop fodder and Liberal Party -with its topical name and lazy delivery- just feels sloppy. Again, there are exceptions: Two Less Jacks is some of the best work the band have done, creating a wall of sound as its chorus hits. Expensive Dog is in the same league and recalls some of the shorter, finer moments of Henge Beat, while Black Spring is this hybrid of kraut drumming and an Angels-esque guitar riff; that track is the best thing on the record.

So, it's bad then? No. While Typical System upon first listen can fail to grab you the way that Henge Beat did, it is a slow burner. Older fans will actually have a tougher time coming to term with the departures than newcomers. This record feels as if it should have been the band's first album, the one that won over an audience so they could have used Henge Beat to tighten their style and craft a more specific audience. Unfortunately Typical System is just sloppy in places and not as satisfying as their past releases. There are strong parts that warrant a listen regardless of the short comings. Whatever its merits, Total Control are nothing if not vastly capable of controlling their own image: many will continue to say that the only things turning up in Total Control's toilet bowl, are coloured gold.

- Brad Armstrong.

Album Details

Album Title: Typical System
Artist: Total Control
Record Label: (Iron Lung)