The first listen of Square Peg In A Round Hole by Apparatjik had me break out in a massive grin in the first sixteen seconds. The autotuned “YEAH!” that suddenly swooped in over the lovely warm bed of monologue synths and vintage drum machine tones told me that I was in for some fun. I knew literally nothing about the band. I googled them, to try and learn. Then I googled them again, and spelled their name correctly. Apparently they've got the bassist from Coldplay in them, or something, but I'm still not sure. There's something about an iPad version of the album, somewhere, created by fans. The band's website is confusing. I was scared. But frankly, it doesn't matter; this is fun, simple music, so stop thinking so hard about it and dance.
Finished dancing? Okay. I was a bit rash back there; yes, this is pretty fun music, and yes it's good for dancing, but don't expect the reinvention of the wheel. Apparatjik make curious, space-aged electro-pop, with plenty of heavily effected vocals and disco beats. The production is sickly sweet, and the rhythms are incessant and infectious. The lyrics are, for the most part, absolute rubbish: 'Cervux Sequential (feat. Lisa A)' boasts such gems as “The circuit has a switch/it's hard to be a witch/I think I'm gonna start a little fire,” repeated ad nauseum, while 'Combat Disco Music' has “Tonight's the night/the feeling is right/for the combat disco music” for a chorus. It all feels very Eurotrash.
Highlights include the sugary, layered vocal harmonies of a cappella track 'Superpositions', and the almost hilarious acoustic bounce of 'Do It Myself (feat. Auto Goon)'. The band conjure the tongue-in-cheek, 21st century aesthetics of Gorillaz, but only if Damon Albarn took a lot of bad ecstacy and stopped caring so much.
Lowlights include, well, the second half of most of the songs found on Square Peg In A Round Hole; these repetitive pop nuggets can only endure so many listens before you start hating them. This is not to say that the songs are intrinsically bad, and indeed each one has its merit while probably paying homage to dozens of early 90s European pop groups that nobody has ever heard of.
But sadly, this is a fairly throw-away collection of sugar-hyped little pop songs. Indulge at your own peril, with a strong beverage and a copy of Grimes' newest album at hand, to wash away any guilty feelings.