Spray - Enforced Fun - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Spray - Enforced Fun

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:7 Release Date:2016-06-20

Enforced Fun is probably the most meta and self-aware album I've ever heard. Beginning with the goofy intro narrated by Jane Badler, most notable for her performance in the classic 80s miniseries V, the album is by turns earnest and cynical, but somehow always tongue in cheek. I also can't think of the last time an album made me literally laugh out loud. This set, put together by duo Jenny McLaren and Ricardo Autobahn, managed that feat quite a few times.

The first song, 'Hit the Applause Lights', is very strong, and pretty much exemplifies the best qualities of the album: high energy, fun synths and beats, and goofy lyrics. The follow-up, 'Overdramatic', attempts to pull off the same trick, but it doesn't quite work as well. And that's indicative of the album as a whole. The mentality behind the songs is just awesome, but the band slips into a rut musically, with songs that don't particularly stand out.

'Rotating the Square' is another one that's an odd mix of elements, with upbeat synths and beats and an amusing reference to Tetris at the heart of its lyrical conceit. In keeping with the relics of the 80s vibe, it's followed by 'The Magic 8-Ball Lies', which feels more like disco than synth pop. But McLaren has a very odd ability to pour her heart and soul into some serious nonsense. The entire tune is almost a diatribe against this totem of prophetic power, and it mostly works, and was another spot that elicited some chuckles upon first listen.

There are a couple of occasions where they clearly tipped their hats to classic pop hits, like 'It's Not Enough' with its opening's curious similarity to the old Londonbeat song 'I've Been Thinking About You', and the even more blatant rip-off of the drums from New Order's 'Blue Monday' at the beginning of 'Fake Controversy Coincidentally Moves Product'.

Interestingly, the songs in which they collaborated with an outside artist are some of the strongest, with the aforementioned 'It's Not Enough' pulsing with bubble-gum bliss thanks to the help of Kid Kasio. And 'The 80s Never Died', featuring Phil Fletcher, is an absolute blast, a loving paean to what will certainly be regarded as the best decade in history down through the ages: "I won't surrender won't give up or give in til the world has realized / that it could be happy if it would just live like the 80s never died." And they give a shoutout to pretty much every synth pop group of the decade.

Another song that perfectly encapsulates the attitude of the album is 'The Biggest Pool in L.A.', which is all about the satisfaction to be had from owning this coveted material good. It bounces along on bass, beats, and bleeps. In that same vein, just the title 'It's the Night of the Long Knives Charlie Brown' tells you a lot about the ideas at play.

But for every tune that knocks it out of the park, there's another that's just not that exciting. 'Diabolical Mastermind' and 'Into a Tunnel' mostly drag despite their pretensions to high drama. And the ballads are a mixed bag. 'You Show Me the Way' feels straightforward and super sincere, with slow beats, melody staying in the background, and lots of crooning by McLaren. But this mode doesn't work well when measured up against the more light-hearted songs. And the closer, 'The Final Song', was also the final laugh for me, with its self-aware proclamation as the last song to play when you're ready to end the party. But it's another that didn't have a heck of a lot to offer after that first listen.

I want to love this album. In some ways, I do. But the music, despite flashes of brilliance, doesn't always hold up to the great lyrical games. Still, there are enough fun and well crafted tunes here to make it worth a listen, and I absolutely adore the place the set is coming from, the spirit of both a wink and a nod and deep undercurrent of nostalgia.

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