By: Eric G.
Mark Robinson, whose seminal band, Unrest, defined what became known as "indie rock" in the early part of this decade, returns from a long hiatus with Flin Flon, a trio that plays semi-robotic, angular pop. As the liner notes suggest, this album should not be listened to as a whole, but rather as ten individual songs. The music is driving and rigid with heavily syncopated beats that mimic the sound of a drum machine. The bass lines pummel like early Joy Division mixed with Wire while Robinson plucks rhythmical arpeggios on his guitar.
Flin Flon is a far cry from the final days of Unrest or even the brief Air Miami period. Its origins seem to stem from Robinson's one off solo effort from 1996, The Olympic Death Squad. That record, entitled Blue, focused more on rhythm than song structure, which is where Flin Flon takes its cues.
Robinson's clean choirboy voice is the only instantly recognizable element in the mix. His vocals blend well with the carefully calculated guitar/bass interplay. The lyrics seem silly at times, but they will surprise you by mixing silliness with clever, insightful word play: "what you see is only real to me…what I wear and all your hair doesn't mean much to me/all I want is where you're going/where you've been" ("Moose Jaw"). Even with Unrest, Robinson's seemingly inconsequential lyrical blurbs were always peppered with flashes of brilliance. It's not necessarily what he says but how he says it that matters.
A-OK is exciting because of its energetic and disciplined tone; everything is tight and controlled like a poppy version of Gang Of Four. Robinson's production is very direct. There are no superfluous sounds. This record should make fans of Robinson's other work ecstatic, but, more importantly, it should inject a much needed boost of energy into the dying indie rock scene.