And so it begins. A mournful horn and an elfin tinkle give way to a martial, string-stabbed intro of Danny Elfman, nay, John Williams-level portentousness. These beats, it promises, are going to be planetary in scope. Space-time-fabric-warping in the massiveness of their farcicality. And from the second the utterly redonkulous throb, swagger and cat-and-mouse build-and-drop of the strutting ‘Genesis’ kicks in, our hopes are totally fulfilled.
Well, until about the point of ‘Set Me On Fire’ (four tracks in). We came prepped for fun, but we’re forced to admit that, like running a marathon dressed as a Womble, Pendulum just aren’t that much of a giggle in the long-term.
What is The Pendulum Formula? Why are they eating worlds while, say, Hadouken! eat Super Noodles? Well… draw close. The fantastically clever blueprint they’ve hit upon is to totally cool-proof themselves by never having been remotely fashionable in the first place. To say their kind of drum’n’bass sounds horrifically dated is a bit like saying skiffle’s not really where it’s at. They’ve then nitro-boosted their reptile-brain beat appeal
by bolting on the sort of faux-heavy emotional wallowing formerly proffered by the nu-metal likes of Papa Roach and yes, Linkin Park (see ‘Crush’). And so, the tribe-crossing bosh appeal that fuels the main case for Pendulum; that there must be something in a band that all genres of music fans like to go mental to in a field.
Thing is though, if you’re not park-bound, the flail-worthy likes of the (yes) Liam Howlett-featuring ‘Immunize’ diminish in stature. It drives up, drops out, comes back in again. And then it just… goes on. There’s little, for all the grandstanding, that stands out. And when something does, as on the Balearic pace-change of ‘The Island Pt 1: Dawn’, Swire whispering sweatily in your ear, “What are you waiting for?/Just surrender here tonight,” you rather wish it would fade away again.
The problem with trying to listen to Pendulum is that where their predecessors The Prodigy made the perfect dance-rock crossover simply by treating dance music like it was punk rock, plugging into the ravening, rabid monomania behind both, Pendulum weave an itchy and uncomfortable patchwork of the two. ‘Immersion’ is less fun, harder work than ‘In Silico’. It feels like Pendulum are trying to be more than an anonymous CD you put on at a party when everyone’s too boxed to DJ any more. They shouldn’t.
Still, it’d be great to go mental to in a field at 4am. It’s just that like a torn tent or an empty gas canister, you’d leave it there without further thought at the end of the weekend.