(3 out of 5)
Although English combo Late of the Pier often flirts with dance-punk sounds on their debut album, FANTASY BLACK CHANNEL is light years ahead of most other records in that increasingly annoying genre. Sure, vocalist Samuel Dust has a propensity for lapsing into that I-need-to-blow-my-nose singing style that’s de rigeur among far too many bands these days, and the crowd-pleasing synth riffs and samples that undergird most of these cuts may sound mightily familiar. But it’s the way that LOTP combines those elements with a freewheeling and almost experimental sensibility that sets FANTASY BLACK CHANNEL well apart. Most of the cuts here sound more like a collision of multiple, disparate ideas that come together in unlikely ways. Album closer “Bathroom Gurgle,” for instance, initially comes across as a simplistic irony-take on ’80s New Romanticism, but when Dust begins wailing midway like a cross between a lovelorn Prince and a spit-flecked Mark E. Smith … well, there’s an entirely different ballgame being played here. So while part of you may want to bust out the eyeliner and get sweaty to tracks like “Space and the Woods,” it’s the proggy, distorted dynamics of “Whitesnake” and the inverted Burundi beats and funky keyboard thrusts of “The Bears Are Coming” that provide this disc’s more substantial pleasures.