The Handcuffs - Waiting For The Robot
2011, OOFL Records
2011, OOFL Records
Chicago rockers The Handcuffs were born of the critically acclaimed band Big Hello. Principal songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Brad Elvis and vocalist Chloe F. Orwell moved on together and formed The Handcuffs, exploring new sonic territories while keeping irrepressible pop hooks at the heart and soul of their songs. The Handcuffs third album, Waiting For The Robot (September 6, 2011), shows the continued evolution of Orwell and Elvis' muse, ably assisted by fellow Handcuffs Emily Togni, Ellis Clark (guitar) and Alison Hinderlifter (keys).
The Handcuffs promise big rock swagger and sex appeal on Waiting For The Robot, delivering in flashes but often falling short of their ideal. Much of the sexuality of the album is contrived in pouty vocals and ham-handed innuendo by vocalist Chloe F. Orwell, but there are definite bright spots on the journey. "Dirty Glitter" establishes The Handcuff's pop sensibility in a dark and catchy innuendo-laden rocker. The big fuzzy guitar sound here has a primal rock appeal, but The Handcuffs have difficulty maintaining that vibe. "Come On Venus" is an unkempt and conspiratorial rocker that's as catchy as anything you might hear on the radio. The chorus will repeat itself in your mind, and the anachronistic musical approach of The Handcuffs certainly gets your attention.
Things get a bit tricky thereafter, with a tendency toward bland repetition and inanity becoming a trend. "Ooh Baby Baby" is pure bubblegum, and gives way to the overly repetitive "Eight Down". "Kiss This Goodbye" is a sophomore kiss off song; middle of the road pop with a petulant attitude that quickly loses its appeal. The Handcuffs recover with the mid-tempo pop/rock of "Baby I Love You", and explode into pop glory with "Vinyl Isabella", which tends toward repetition but is so catchy you can't escape it. Then it's back into the morass until The Handcuffs come in out of the night with the self-focused ballad "The Scary Side Of Me", which explores the narrator's own fear of letting a loved one see her dark side. The stripped-down, introspective number is a brilliant change of pace; the best songwriting on the album.
The Handcuffs work hard to deliver the sort of glamorous rock and roll image they grew up with. That glamour shines through at times on Waiting For The Robot, but as often as not the feeling is contrived and messy. The Handcuffs skate on by on pure talent at times like these, with Charles' unusual voice and Elvis' distinct ability to craft intriguing arrangements often saving songs from themselves. Waiting For The Robot gives the impression of a band still not entirely set on where they're coming from musically, but the potential is very visible between the lines. This is a solid start.
Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about The Handcuffs at www.handcuffs.com or www.myspace.com/thehandcuffs. Waiting For The Robot is available on Amazon.com as a CD or Download. The album is also available via iTunes.