Label: Sub Pop Release Date: 09/03/09 Link: Words: djm Handsome Furs are a duo consisting of Dan Boeckner from Wolf Parade and his wife Alexei Perry. Face Control is their second long player and it has been eagerly awaited in the wake of their fantastic debut - 2007’s understated yet anthemic Plague Park - and last year’s stunning Wolf Parade album At Mount Zoomer. Not to mention the decidedly racy pre-publicity shots (see below). Sad to report, Face Control is a pale shadow of those former glories. When the pretentious blurb on the Sub Pop website compares their debut to Scandinavia and this latest to Eastern Europe the intended implication is that the music conveys a sense of the geography and architecture of these locations. But in fact the analogy works on a literal level – in many respects Face Control sounds just like a band from some forgotten corner of Eastern Europe in its often inept combination of hoary 70s guitar rock with clunking 80s electronic backing. The first four tracks are almost unremittingly awful. The pace is slow and plodding throughout, the beats are basic and largely unvarying, the keyboards minimal and cheesy. And on top of it all guitarist and singer Boeckner seems to be performing his tribute to pub rock like a latter day Dave Edmunds. After a brief instrumental things seem to pick up with the livelier ‘All We Want, Baby, Is Everything’. That is until after about 30 seconds it becomes clear that this is a blatant and inferior rip-off of New Order’s ‘Temptation’, even cribbing from the lyrics in places (apparently the release of the album was delayed while this was legally cleared with the band). Thankfully the second half of the record is a considerable improvement. ‘(White City)’ (not a cover of the Thomas Dolby classic) is an all too brief fragment of a song which melds eastern-sounding keyboards and New-Order-ish guitars as Boeckner repeats the line, “Oh hear that water run to and fro”. ‘Nyet Spasiba’ evokes New Order yet again (even including a snatch of the beat from ‘Blue Monday’ at one point), but throws enough originality into the mix, together with a coda worthy of Wolf Parade (albeit one of their b-sides), to justify its existence. ‘Officer Of Hearts’ is a slinky electronic number which, although sounding worryingly like INXS at times, is the closest they come to achieving on record the sexiness they brazenly display in the flesh – it would ably lend itself to a more dancefloor-friendly remix.  ‘Thy Will Be Done’ drops the baton somewhat with its return to the stodgy rock of the first half, but ‘Radio Kaliningrad’ – probably the best track here – manages to ends things on a relatively upbeat and energetic note. Overall Face Control is a disappointing return with a few, but far too few, redeeming features.  And yet I am still tempted to see them play when they tour in April in the hope that in the live arena they can bring these songs to life. Rating: 5/10