German born Hanin Elias has come a long way since her days in Atari Teenage Riot. The band split following the death of singer Carl Crack from a drug overdose in 2000. While ATR were known for hard core techno/metal and frenzied live performances, they were also ardently political. Formed in 1992, ATR were a reaction against the Neo-Nazi subculture that was gaining steam in Germany in the first half of the decade. This record sees Elias take a more sentimental approach. The other half of this duo is Marcel Zürcher of Die Krupps, who brings his industrial strength metal to the mix, albeit in a more subdued manner than we have heard from him before.
While ATR was characterised by politically charged apocalyptic techno, Fantome instead presents with a much mellower, more mature sound. Elias herself has stated in interview that ATR was about the external; structures like capitalism, politics and society dominated the lyric sheets. Fantome on the other hand takes a more insular approach. Elais has stated that writing more emotionally charged songs was a form of catharsis after concentrating on political matters for so long. Gone are the anarchic rages against the man and the frustration with the colourless hordes who make up the rat race. Instead, we see a more traditional approach to song writing. In the style of Blondie or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Elias effortlessly masters the electro-punk love song. At times, the album almost echoes 90’s Britpop, or an emotional PJ Harvey (at least vocally), whereas their latest single ‘Love’ could have been written by the Cure.
Fantome list Leonard Cohen as an influence which is most clearly heard on ‘Je Suis a Toi’ — the French language track near the end of the album. This song is perfectly placed in the running order. As is common with a lot of albums at first listen, there tends to be a slump in the latter half of the record where all the songs seem to blend — this album is no different. The change in language however, grabs your attention for the final few songs. While the lyrics lack the effortless profundity of Cohen, the influence is clearly heard.
More sedate though it may be, it is not an album that fades into the background. Brisk drums and rumbling Kim Deal-esque bass lines make even the more serene Fantome songs on the record definite toe-tappers. The titular track ‘It All Makes Sense’ may have one of the catchiest bass lines ever written. The industrial techno elements of Die Krupps are clearly heard in Marcel Zürchers masterful command of the strings. In broad terms however, this is most definitely a dancing record. ‘The Key’ in particular is one of the standout tracks on the album, and would certainly go down very well in a festival setting. Surging and anthemic, this song builds beautifully to towering crescendos at each chorus. The only low point of the LP is the remixes at the end. The sudden morph into dubstep is at odds with the rest of the album and perhaps should have been omitted entirely.
All in all, a very solid and confident debut from Fantome, even at first listen, despite the let-down of the remixes. It is an LP that demands your attention and absolutely must be played at full volume.