TZU – ‘Computer Love’

July 5, 2008 § 1 Comment

Published: The Vine, July 3, 2008.

Computer Love

TZU
Computer Love
(Liberation/Warner)

Following their 2005 funk-pop-rock exploration Smiling at Strangers, one got the feeling that TZU could have gone one of two directions with third long-player Computer Love. Put simply, Smiling at Strangers had become a point of fissure for both fans and critics.

On the one hand, the Magoo-produced record had all the hallmarks of an archetypal Triple J crossover. It had the poppy hooks, the flashes of overt, easily sellable anti-Howardism, the somehow validating presence of live instruments, funked-up guitar licks and sung vocals. On the other, it seemed to all but discard their hip-hop roots, and as such, the vast talents of their two in-house producers, Yeroc and Paso Bionic. Gone were the popping beats and meticulous cuts of 2003’s Position Correction; gone was the well considered rhyme-politic. It wasn’t that TZU were diversifying – it was that they weren’t playing to their strengths.

Luckily, Computer Love sets things straight, and as the title none-so-subtly alludes, it does so largely via the emblematic hip-hop tools of trade – the sampler, the drum machine and two mics. From the swirling strings and airtight, hand-percussion accented beat of popped-up opener ‘We Got the Feeling’ to the synthed-out funk of title-track and lead single ‘Computer Love’, TZU have well and truly reconnected with their beat-based foundation. The searing, soul-fried shuffle of ‘Take it Easy’ – featuring tearing vocal contribution from the inimitable Renee Geyer – is on of the quartet’s tightest to date. The shuddering Dilla-esque beat of ‘Number One’ and the positively out-of-hand electronics of ‘Axis Tilt’ – replete with razor-sharp verses from MCs Joelistics and Count Bounce – make for further highlights.

But TZU’s hip-hop realignment doesn’t mean they’ve dulled their pop impulses. While Paso and Yeroc are obviously back in on the beats, Computer Love very much carries the Count Bounce production stamp. There’s plenty of live guitars, bass, keys and sung vocals, which translate to ample of rootsy flavours (check ‘Got to Do’, ‘Burning Up’) and future soul (‘Crazy Thinker’). ‘Right of Way‘ and ‘Monday’ are straight up, cartoonish pop songs.

Computer Love still might be a little too much for tough Aussie hip-hop heads, but that was never TZU’s trip. What they’ve managed to do here is reassert their feasibility as a hip-hop act, while not alienating the newly found pop fan-base. And there’s no crime in that.

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