A band with a rather incestuous and bizarre history, MSTRKRFT was originally the side project of Jesse Keeler, formerly the bassist of Death From Above 1979, which eventually became his only project when DFA ’79 broke up in 2006. Despite the ugly divorce, The Looks, made with Keeler and his former producer, Al-P, was a promising album of simple, grungy electronic rock. It was, however, such an about face from the bass-heavy simple punk of Keeler’s former band, that it’s hard to believe it was made by the same two people. Now, with the band’s second album, it seems obvious that something went wrong in the transformation.
Part of what made The Looks so appealing was its delicate balance of humor and seriousness. With tongue-in-cheek samples and heavy bass, the album maintained a self-awareness that kept it from becoming annoying. Unfortunately, with the addition of glittery guest vocalists like N.O.R.E. and John Legend, Fist Of God abandons that cheeky playfulness. There’s just too much here—vocals, instruments, and annoying, ringing synthesizers that sound freshly plucked from the low-hanging fruit of ‘90s euro-house. The music was so much richer when it was basic and repetitive.
Compared with Keeler’s earlier albums, and even with his last MSTRKRFT album, Fist Of God is a huge disappointment. Despite its abundance of good ideas and the obvious talent of all those involved, it comes off as an obnoxious attempt to collect on Daft Punk’s investment. The star-studded list of collaborators may be healthy on paper, and it’s admirable that they’d be willing to collaborate with a band as unusual and aggressive as MSTRKRFT. But, musically, it’s a step backwards rather than a step forwards.