It’s probably a little unfair to complain that a cover song is the best track on an album when that song is Wire’s “The 15th” — just about the only albums that song wouldn’t be the best cut on are Revolver and The Velvet Underground and Nico. However, it’s a cause for concern when the rest of the tracks barely deserve to share disc space with said — especially when the artist responsible is the hugely hyped ringleader of a hugely hyped scene.
At a time when the entire New York City music scene developed a massive hard-on for all things 1981, Fischerspooner headed up the Human League wing, dubbed electroclash. Consisting of Fischerspooner and similar artists such as Peaches and Mt. Sims, the electroclash bands combined rudimentary techno-pop with elaborate stage shows and an oh-so-decadent attitude to create possibly the most empty style-over-substance movement since the new romantics. Trendy scenesters and hangers-on latched onto it, but for the most part the general public sniffed at it briefly and moved on. By the time Rufus Wainwright got around to declaring that “electroclash is karaoke, too” on his 2003 album Want One, it was already yesterday’s news.
That said, #1 is not a total disaster. While it’s true that nothing else even comes close to matching the Wire number, there are a few glimmers of inspiration and talent — if Warren Fischer and Casey Spooner put as much effort into songwriting as they did coming up with ways for their stage show to shock the occasional Methodist tourist, they might be worth listening to. “Emerge” is a moderately exciting synth-pop romp which became one of the earliest hits on iTunes. “Sweetness” and “Turn On” have their moments — they wouldn’t be bad building blocks for finished songs had someone bothered to finish them. The rest of the album is exactly what it feels like — second thought background music for the group’s “shocking” performance art, music which dresses in the drag of an earlier era for hip/ironic cachet without bothering to write actual songs. As a souvenir of a naughty night out amongst the hipsters, #1 fills the bill adequately. As an album judged by its own merits, it doesn’t hold up.