Crunchy electropop excellence…
One of the albums that stood out back in 2017 was War Torn (see The Electricity Club review previously), which brought grassroots act She’s Got Claws onto the TEC radar.
She’s Got Claws first emerged as an electronic music act in 2011. Micci, the brains behind the concept, had already chalked up time in Adrenalin Junkies (which later became electro punk outfit Paparazzi Whore). Keen to plough her own path, she took titular inspiration from the classic Gary Numan song to create She’s Got Claws. Musically, the new venture pulled from an interest in the likes of Trent Reznor, The Prodigy and Chemical Brothers, but with an emphasis on multi-layered effects on vocals in a bid to craft an intriguing machine-like style.
Doppelgänger represents the latest album release from She’s Got Claws, which builds on War Torn’s impressive foundations to craft an album that’s bursting with hooks and crunchy electronic percussion alongside Micci’s distinctive vocal style. The end result is a raw synth-pop selection which dazzles from start to finish.
Not surprisingly, the album title is a rumination on the idea of a person having two sides, something explored on the title track which poses the question on whether on any given day you’re a good person – or the more sinister doppelgänger. Meanwhile, the album bounces around themes of toxic relationships, being yourself, tackling mental health issues and also saluting the flag of music itself.
The current incarnation of She’s Got Claws consists of Micci and Chris O-Ten, who provides bass guitar as well as co-writing and co-producing duties on the new album. But Doppelgänger also boasts the involvement of none other than Andy McCluskey from OMD, who takes on productions duties for two songs on the album. McCluskey has previously sung the praises of She’s Got Claws, so getting hands-on with their material seems like a logical step forward.
Take ‘Adulation’, which kicks off the album, a track which explores the idea of being yourself without needing permission from anyone else (“I don’t need your adulation/Don’t dress me up as your fun occasion”). It’s a brash electronic pop tune, given a particularly percussive drive care of Andy McCluskey’s production talents.
The frenetic ‘Lying in the dust’, meanwhile, is offered up as a tribute to the late Keith Flint. Here, Prodigy-style rhythms and beats dominate while Micci’s vocals take on a widescreen aspect with an urgent heraldic quality.
One of the album’s highlights is the marching beats of ‘Loves Lies Bleeding’, another composition that sees the talented hand of McCluskey’s production at work. Here, some Numan-style synths are weaved into a track that also employs more effective bass work from Chris O-Ten.
Equally, ‘Lithium’ is easily one of Doppelgänger’s best tracks with its slow-burning delivery. Here, Micci’s vocals have a perfect melodic symmetry on a tune that explores toxic relationships (“I hate you then I love you/I walk away then I run to you”). The raw electronic percussion underpinning the composition provides a suitably gritty counterpoint to Micci’s smooth vocals.
‘Dreaming My Eyes Open’ offers a smooth contrast to the album’s other tracks with Micci’s vocals front and centre. It’s curiously more intimate number whose lyrical narrative deals with not giving up on your dreams (“But my heart is strong/And the lights are calling”). The composition throws up some effective synth strings against boisterous drum-fuelled rhythms.
Also lurking on the album is a nod to Kraftwerk care of ‘Musik’, which delivers Teutonic beats and vocoder effects for a celebration of what music gives to each of us.
The album’s title track blends some beefy Chris O-Ten bass guitar against an electro-punk/synth-pop workout that take on an almost physical presence. By contrast, ‘Smoking Gun’ is a slightly more sedate affair (apparently inspired by French synth masters Air).
There’s a much more industrial touch to ‘Numbers Station’ which has a cinematic sweep with stylish synth strings against a more intimidating bass. Penned as a homage to classic 60s spy films, such as the Michael Caine vehicles The Ipcress File and Funeral In Berlin, the song has a suitably period cold war feel boosted by the use of cimbalom melodies.
The album also slots in a remix of ‘Musik’ by Cameron McCluskey (aka Taka), a relation of OMD’s synth master, who here gives the track a groove garage synth style.
Doppelgänger is an impressive affair which manages to keep to the simple template that War Torn demonstrated, yet also evolving the sound of She’s Got Claws. Here, everything sounds bigger and bolder while also showing a slicker talent for melody and arrangement.
Even in an already busy year for music, Doppelgänger is a stunning album that’s engineered for peak synth-pop perfection.
Doppelgänger is released 25th September.