One Step Forward

Night on Fire (Astralwerks)
VHS or BETA

By John Bohannon

Getting dance fever is by all means a temporary thing for many. It's quite unlikely that it can even last the duration of an entire LP. Thus stands true within VHS or BETA's second effort Night on Fire. Aside from about half the tracks paying homage to the likes of dance extraordinaire Daft Punk, and circa late '80s The Cure, the dancing drags on just a bit too long. But don't let the bad counterpart fool you. The better part of the album is an aspiring start on the boys' major label debut on Astralwerks.

VHS or BETA's live experience creates a club atmosphere, but as you watch the band, you realize how much of a kinship to the music this band generates. Instead of making its living off the cliché dance companion, the synth machine, the band creates a full guitar-driven sound. It is apparent right off the bat with the opening track, "Night on Fire." The lyric "Put your hands together and we'll light this night/ We'll light this night on fire" come off as corny, but within the context of a song that thrives off the groove, you will be singing it right along with them. But as you head into the next track "You Got Me," you can't help but think to yourself, Didn't I just hear this? They even throw their punches at a semi-punk effort with "Nightwaves," but fall short of a knockout.

"The Melting Moon" sounds like a long-lost Robert Smith song intended for a Cure album, but VHS or BETA lead singer Zeke Buck somehow picked it up. "Forever" reverts to the sound of the first album Le Funk, and actually exceeds any comparison to Daft Punk. The "wah" guitar motions, bubbly bass riffs, snappy drumbeats, and robotic vocal processors will have you dancing long after this one is over.

After all these comparisons, it seems as if on the track "Alive" VHS or BETA finally finds its niche. It's a guitar-driven ballad that showcases Buck's vocals to their best of his capabilities. This track sounds straight out of the '80s, and in a very good way. The last worthy cause on the album, "Hypnotize," is a five-minute instrumental that you truly have to gain a respect for live. It's the highest energy song on the album that has the most electrifying, impressive guitar licks along with the most consistent groove. The final two tracks, "Ocean" and "Irreversible," could have been done without, for they were both rehashed from other songs on the album.

Overall, the album seems to be a work in progress of a band finding its own sound. It falls short in several places, but shines in others. Some people may look down on VHS or BETA for this album, and some may see it as a step towards greater things. If you were to ask me, it's a big step forward.