UK Producer Orlando Higginbottomâ€™s penchant for flair might mislead a listener or two when they gaze upon the cover of his debut LP as Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosuars. Based on the image of T.E.E.D. clad in what can only be described as an odd piece of headgear, one might think they are in for an album of Eno-esque art rock or warped electronica. Instead, the producer presents an understated electro-pop album with shimmers of brilliance.
The album is structured with a majority of mid-tempo pop songs interspersed with one or two lifting dance tracks, with each set topping the last. â€śPromises,â€ť â€śTroubleâ€ť and â€śShimmerâ€ť set the pattern, effectively building up the energy for the one-two punch of â€śHousehold Goodsâ€ť and â€śYour Love.â€ť The two tracks employ different tricks for luring dancers out on the floor, with the formerâ€™s electro bass-throbs giving way to the latterâ€™s UK-rave positivity. This pattern takes the listener back to the love-lorn electro-pop, with heart on the sleeve lyrics and repetition that bog down the albumâ€™s mid-section. The meandering polyrhythms and aloof vocals of â€śPanpipesâ€ť wear out their welcome pretty quickly, and it doesnâ€™t help that the track lags on for six minutes. Things pick up after the mid-point, though, building to the fantastic climax of â€śTapes & Money,â€ť the albumâ€™s lead single, followed by the techno fuzz of â€śAmerican Dream Part II.â€ť The LP is rounded off in fine fashion with the hand-claps and up-beat synths of â€śStronger.â€ť
Lyrically, Higginbottom never ventures for anything too deep, instead pursuing tales of unrequited infatuation and love out on the town. The lyrics walk a fine line between clever and cloying, only occasionally edging towards the latter. â€śFor the record, look Iâ€™m wrong and youâ€™re right,â€ť he croons on the title track, presenting a small tale of romance that winds up going sour for the protagonist. The songs are delivered with a sense of cool detachment that recalls Pet Shop Boysâ€™s Neil Tennant and other New Wave singers. At other points throughout the record, such as â€śTapes & Money,â€ť T.E.E.D. delivers a commendable falsetto.
While the T.E.E.D. project may eschew current trends in popular dance music, his debut is worth noting for its understated qualities. Some of the mid-tempo tracks may seep into each other upon first listen, but the pristine production and vocal delivery reveal the albumâ€™s charms on repeat listens. While there are a few missteps along the way, Trouble contains an exciting batch of pop songs for Summer 2012 and beyond.