In Silico, by Pendulum
Suggested by Andy Scott-Morrissey
In Silico is my second Pendulum album to date, after ALBUM 136: Hold Your Colour.
I enjoyed that album, to a point. I praised its fizzy, funky sound, its Eighties Videogame aesthetic, its spy film soundtrack vibe, and its general upbeat approach. On the downside, I noted its lack of a gut-punching bass, its reliance on instrumentals, and its comic book juvenilia. I gave it a stout 6/10 as a reflection of both pros and cons.
In the comments for that album, Andy – he who suggested this album – was pleased their first album was Randomised before their second. Apparently, the difference between their debut Hold Your Colour and their follow up In Silico is drastic.
Andy is incorrect. There is a difference, but it’s not a drastic one.
Let’s look at the points one by one. First, Hold Your Colour championed a fizzy, funky sound. That sound still proliferates through In Silico. The fourth track, Visions, brings a mountainous, fountainous fizz, with a funky bass cola spiced and swollen by a tube of robotic vocal Mentos. Next, the previous album brought a somewhat nostalgic Eighties Videogame sound, and this album taps that well too. The first track, Showdown, is a fine example of this, with a driving drumbeat and what sounds like a supercharged kazoo directing the traffic. It’s an Ecstasy-fuelled Tetris, it’s Frogger for the Rave Set, a Drum and Bass Pacman with power pills for everyone.
In Silico is still upbeat, which is evidenced by almost every damn track on the album. As for the spy film soundtrack vibe, this is demonstrated clearly in Midnight Runner, throughout which you can literally hear the pursuit cars shifting up and down in gears as they thrash through the streets of Rome in pursuit of James Bond’s DB9.
It’s the differences between these two albums in which we can see a marked improvement. For a start, the aforementioned lack of a powerful bass is remedied throughout In Silico, which gives the music much more presence than before. It retains its Drum and Bass Lite status and strong pop sound, but it’s solid enough to rattle your jaw with an uppercut or two. In Silico still trots out a majority of instrumental tracks, but there’s a handful of songs with excellent vocal parts, including my favourite track Propane Nightmares. And overall, the album feels more mature, more adult, that the knockabout jolliness of its predecessor.
In Silico is a marked improvement on Hold Your Colour, so it gets a fine 7/10. It’s not perfect – the final track is a straight rock number that feels out of place, and the timid and low-key 9000 Miles isn’t the full-on brash assault by eighteen Proclaimers that I’d envisioned – but it does more than enough to elevate Pendulum a little higher up the food chain.