ALBUM REVIEW: Electric Callboy – ‘Tekkno’

The album’s titled etched into a scuffed black background

In a post-Hypa Hypa world, Electric Callboy have become something of a main event. What was once a band buttressed solely by the dim star of 2010s electro-metalcore is now a significant force, and as is probably expected, the timeline of how we got to this point isn’t the clearest. Hypa Hypa is arguably the clearest marker, their big viral single that played up the inherent stupidity of their style, and took Electric Callboy into an area where their success is indiscriminate of whether enjoyment is ironic or otherwise. Since then, they auditioned to represent Germany in Eurovision this year, and had every piece of music they’ve released become wildly successful, an absolute demolition of their peers’ achievements (or lack thereof) about a decade ago.

But let’s take a minute to play fun police and see if any of this is actually justified, because in 2022, Electric Callboy are receiving frankly absurd amounts of endorsement from sources that otherwise wouldn’t touch bands like this with a ten-foot pole. To say their past material has been spotty at best is as kind as it’s possible to be, and it’s not like Hypa Hypa or its subsequent follow-ups have represented a gigantic uptick in quality or reputability. They’re still a band who rely deeply on a gimmick of blending cheesy, sugary Eurodance with standard-issue Warped Tour metalcore, i.e. the complete antithesis of the creativity and humanity that rock music wants nowadays.

That said, if Tekkno does one thing that lands exceptionally in Electric Callboy’s favour, it shows that they’re a lot more in on the joke, maybe more than ever before. They have to be; there’s no way to twist this as a serious endeavour anymore, so why not crank up the unrepentant, unapologetic kitsch of it all and just go from there? And that’s what makes Tekkno actually a fair bit of fun, at least on that absolute most surface level. The second any critical thinking comes into play, it all falls apart; however, if you can put that brain-meat to rest and let the funny German men jangle their keys in your face for half an hour, the ‘magic’ of Electric Callboy is at its most blatant.

Okay, maybe ‘magic’ is overselling it just a tad, when the bulk of Tekkno’s enjoyment hangs at the same irony level as the Europop that Electric Callboy themselves aren’t a million miles from. At the end of the day, they’re most defined as a loud, bawdy, horny crew, and lean into all of that accordingly. You don’t get lines like “Shaky, shaky, sweaty, sweaty / You make my spaghetti ready” from Tekkno Train by any band under the illusion of playing it straight. It’s the same with Pump It, and We Got The Moves, and Arrow Of Love; it’s the work of a joke band where any of hint of a pejorative in such a sentiment has been acid-washed right off, and that’s where a lot of the fun comes from. It becomes little wonder that Electric Callboy have been the sole name from their bygone era to actually stick around, when they simultaneously lean into their ridiculousness and act as though they have something to bring within it.

Their approach to dance music—especially such a specific subcategory—doesn’t begin and end at a few synth tones. Yes, that does indeed help, but there’s also everything from specific tempos, to whole sections in German on Spaceman and Hurrikan, to the fact that no non-European act would be undignified enough to put their name to Arrow Of Love or Tekkno Train (in a good way, of course. ‘Bravery’ might be too strong a word, but no one else is throwing in entire verses from German rapper FiNCH like on Spaceman, or building off a completely undiluted Europop song that could’ve been cut by O-Zone with Hurrikan.

It helps that Electric Callboy’s limits come with a lot more dynamism than most. It shouldn’t be a shock that they’re willing to offer more than the standard smattering of keys or dance progressions, nor does it ever come from a feeling of obligation. The colour and cartoonishness is such a handy prop to have, when songs like Pump It and We Got The Moves are so super-maximalist in their sonic wallop and the breakneck pace they rave by at. It’s all designed as a rush in which subtlety is as foreign a concept as they come, and where a lot of the production reflects that in some pretty evident flatness.

Yes, the critic hat unfortunately does have to come back on and the party has to stall, because for as entertaining as Tekkno is, that’s not enough to fully slide it outside the realm of issues that hold it back from much more. To be fair, Electric Callboy are savvy enough to overload themselves where they can make a good go of it, but the lack of proper crunch or weight can ultimately hurt it when its necessary metalcore moments come in.

They’re by far the least entertaining points on Tekkno, not for being bad as much as a bit generic and disjointed with the overall tone. It’s most noticeable when they’re given the prime focus, like on Mindreader or Parasite that see the colour drain and the format get a lot more stale. At least on Fuckboi, there’s a touch of ultra-current pop-rock in a pretty solid hook, and Conquer Divide’s Kia Castillo acts as a good vocal foil; otherwise, they’re songs that could come from a completely different, completely more po-faced band, and they’re massively lacking for it.

It illustrates how thin the line is between an album like Tekkno working, and barely being able to hold itself together. The jumble of ideas evidently yields lesser ones, and when they do show up, it’s not an insignificant gulf. Saying that, it’s a borderline miracle that they’re the minority here, and Electric Callboy have otherwise primed and tightened themselves up in a way that does actually pull its weight for them. It’s a rarity, definitely, and one which it’s not even clear if they’ll be able to pull off again given their past record, but the results speak for themselves, at the end of the day. The willfully idiotic, guilty pleasure-defining mess of an album that Electric Callboy have been threatening for a while is here, and you might as well try and have some fun with it while it’s around. It might even surprise you.

For fans of: Crossfaith, We Butter The Bread With Butter, One Morning Left

‘Tekkno’ by Electric Callboy is released on 16th September on Century Media Records.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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