June 4, 2018 Poptone – Poptone (Album Review)
To casual, especially millennial Alternative/Indie music listeners, the name Poptone will most likely pass by their attention like a floating leaf in Autumn. However, to the initiated, this band is a golden glimmer of the past this Summer. Poptone is actually the band formed in 2017 by Daniel Ash (guitar, vocals) and Kevin Haskins (drums) of the legendary Post-Punk Gothic/Alternative Rock bands Bauhaus, Tones on Tail, and Love and Rockets. Rounding up the trio is Haskins’ daughter Diva Dompé on bass.
Slated for release on Friday, June 8, 2018, through Cleopatra Records, Poptone’s self-titled debut album is the trio’s updated rendition of choice cuts from Ash and Haskins’ aforementioned bands, in particular Tones on Tail and Love and Rockets. It is a result of their successful tour last year, which found the band revitalized not only by the nostalgic energy of their back catalog but also by the prospect of writing new music.
Poptone opens with the trio’s electrifying and spacey onslaught of Tones on Tail’s cover of the 1956 Elvis Presley favorite “Heartbreak Hotel.” Following next is an even more upbeat, razor-sharp slicing and relentless pounding “Ok This Is the Pops,” which belies Ash and Haskins’ age; the two indeed still have the chops! Then there is the faster and more in-your-senses delivery of the Love and Rockets original “Mirror People,” splintering into a cacophony of fuzzy and piercing guitar sounds, driving bass line, and frenetic as well as galloping drum beats.
Another homage to Tones on Tail’s music comes next with the virtually unchanged replication of the sinister, sexy, and light-jazzy “The Movement of Fear,” whose saxophone interlude is given a welcome boost, pushing its level necessarily high in the mix. The following “Happiness” is a true-to-original-form reintroduction of the Tin Pan Alley/Swing/Jazz–inspired, scat-adorned song, still as playful and tuneful as ever like The Cure’s “The Love Cats.”
Poptone then give the Love and Rockets fan-favorite Alternative Dance track “No Big Deal” a punchier sonic lift, adding also an ear-catching bonus element – Dompé’s deadpan backing vocals. After this laser-lit dance-floor stomper, the lights turn dim and the ambience chilling as the trio launch into the classic “Lions,” taking the listener to the glorious days of Gothic New Wave in the mid-’80s. Still in the same discothèque and lounge mode, Love and Rockets’ trippy “Love Me” pulsates thereafter, giving way aptly to the Experimental Orchestral Disco allure of “Performance.”
One more ominous and brilliant Gothic Rock throwback, “Christian Says” remains a mystical mayhem, still unsettling and engaging at the same time after all those years. Next is a more visceral and rockin’ execution of The Temptations’ 1970 successful single “Ball of Confusion,” which was also a hit for Love and Rockets in 1985.
The penultimate track is another faithful performance of a Tones on Tail gem, “Go!” Finally, Ash, Haskins, and Dompé close their first full-length with its only Bauhaus piece—the Gothic Psychedelic Folk “Slice of Life.”
The initiated will recall that in 2016, Ash has already released a similar tribute album, titled Stripped, which contained Electronic Dance/Dub renditions of selected songs by the same former bands of his. This time, however, Poptone’s style and approach is more organic, obviously because Ash has old comrade Haskins beside him to provide the live drum tracks that was missing in Ash’s solo release. Add to that, Dompé is able faithfully to recreate the works of Tones on Tail’s original bass player, Glenn Campling. Overall, Poptone’s forthcoming album is both fresh and familiar as well as classic and contemporary. While the trio are still writing enough materials for a proper set of original Poptone songs, delight in the meantime on what they have currently come up with. CrypticRock gives Poptone 4 out of 5 stars.