The biggest statement Fischerspooner could have made regarding a second album would have been to not make it at all. The lip-synching, Wire-covering, Italo-loving icons never met a concept too high -- in their dance hit "Emerge," they championed "hyper-mediocrity," the most succinct description of electroclash's driving force. They could have made the ultimate comment on pop's disposability by fading away on purpose, becoming self-imposed one-hit wonders.
But life, unlike electroclash, is not fantasy camp, and the reality of a multi-album major-label deal has come down on music man Warren Fischer and singer Casey Spooner. After running in place for years, releasing no fewer than three similar incarnations of their debut between 2000 and 2003, the bandmates who turned creative ineptitude into shtick are forced to deliver real, live product. For Odyssey, they turn to collaborators such as songwriter-to-the-stars Linda Perry (Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguilera) and David Byrne, whose lyrics barely stand out from Spooner's prolific college poetry. Co-producer Mirwais helps Fischerspooner achieve its only goal: avoiding its previous electroclash sound. The bass lines still bob Moroder-style, like heaving heads in a porno flick, but unfortunately there's little sleaze to be found on the more somber and MOR Odyssey. Fischerspooner only knows what it doesn't want to be.
Odyssey is a haven for static melodies, a place of musical ideas spread out on a table and then randomly stacked like a deck of cards arranged by someone who can't properly shuffle. Instead of smarmy humor, guitars abound, and Fischerspooner halfheartedly flails to fit into the dance-rock/disco-punk trend that supplanted electroclash. So we get a riff-happy remake of "Emerge" (the first single "Just Let Go"), a lame gait imitating Franz Ferdinand's stomp ("Never Win"), and sub-Postal Service easy listening ("A Kick in the Teeth").
Because the Fischerspooner guys were shrewd satirists in the past, it's tempting to give them the benefit of the doubt and read Odyssey as an experiment in sophomore slump-dom. But the album isn't even campy and fun enough to deserve such concessions (only the late essayist Susan Sontag seems in on the joke as the co-writer of the protest song parody "We Need a War," which features a groaner of a chorus: "We need a war / If we think we need a war"). Maybe there's a difference between mediocrity and "hyper-mediocrity," but lackluster is lackluster no matter how it's explained.
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