Command V is a star-studded new band comprised of Cynthia Sley (lead singer of Bush Tetras), Rachel Dengiz (film-maker, of Coffee and Cigarettes; works for Steve Buscemi’s Olive Productions), and Pat Irwin (founding member of the B-52s, but also Eight Eyed Spy and The Raybeats). This mix of people makes for an interesting blend of sounds and influences that the band attempts to consolidate on its debut. On its website Command V claims to be “the new industrial dance music for our digital age created by a stellar New York collective. It is a sonic quicksilver reflection of our fast-moving present, a bright / dark glimpse at the future.”
Though definitely going for unique and futuristic, like something they might play in a club scene in a Matrix movie (and I mean that as a complement because those looked like some crazy good parties), there are a lot of clear derivations on the albums. Sounds of Industrial rock and Dance reminiscent of the late 90s and early 2000s, but they perhaps derive more yet subtlety from the No Wave movement of which Sley and Irwin are vets. The sometimes-sinister and sometimes-upbeat riffs and rhythms that drive the music are complemented by various styles.
Though Command V does have an interesting sound quality and diverse set of sounds, the album as a whole feels more like a mix than an album, especially with the first handful of songs that made for a rather shaky start to the track list. The opening track “Hello” introduces the album with a strong beat and some music and distorted guitar and bass riffs that are prevalent throughout the album. You can hear the album and a remix version of the song here. The few songs following it lack the same commanding presence (pun very much intended), and as there are a number of singers present throughout the album, it’s also likely that their diversity in style – ranging from sweet to staccato to rock-god – add to the feel of inconsistency that didn’t really grab me.
However, Command V begins to gain a more coherent feel on the fifth track “Nothing Is”, which to me was the most unique and catchy without too directly referencing any previous styles of music. The vocals on a few of the songs, especially the sixth track “The Scene”, have a sweet almost Björk-esque quality to it, which differed greatly from a majority of the songs. The next song “Long on Me” is particularly dance-y, and not so much industrial, but rather repetitive and minimalist. A little more than halfway through the album is the interlude “Strange Little Girl” that has a computerized girl’s voice, and is, well, strange. The songs after this track are like another album altogether, one with an equal number of screws loose and tightened up – they are experimentation gone right. The next song “Are We There Yet” is fascinating and raw and the songs subsequent to it follow suit. “Turn the Key” – which is more beat heavy and, like many songs on this album, reminds me of Peaches – is followed up by “Bob Dylan Put Me Down” and sounds like the second half of it, only more hazy and less Dance-oriented. All but the penultimate song are rather catchy and about three minutes or less, so the latter half of the album really flies by. The final song “Black Bag” departs radically from the industrial rawness and is pretty and even a little bit lonely, like someone waiting by a window as the scene fades to black.
At fourteen tracks, the self-titled debut by Command V is a bit on the long side, but there are many songs under two minutes that tether together the long songs and resemble one another and give the album more cohesiveness in its latter half. The music is raw and often dark and reflective of the weirdness and bleakness of urban society. When the diverse sets of influences are consolidated well among these talented musicians and songwriters, it makes for songs that are both unique and appealing; sometimes for at-home listening and jamming music, and sometimes enough to make you want to get up and dance.