Released way back in February to scattered stateside acclaim, ‘Fist of God’ didn’t exactly pack a punch. Hell, it was barely a love tap according to most of our US contemporaries. So why the indifference? After their colossal synth-drilled debut, ‘The Looks’, helped spearhead an abrasive electro revival, MSTRKRFT (aka Jesse F. Keeler and Al-P) could do no wrong. Of course, they could also do no different, apparently, and herein lays the divisive element of ‘Fist of God’.
It isn’t ‘The Looks’, and nor is it 2007 where Justice, Digitalism and Simian Mobile Disco reigned supreme. MSTRKRFT have merely emerged ahead of the curve – they’re the first out of the exalted class of ‘07 to release their sophomore effort – and simply had the audacity to rope in some hip-hop A-listers and lay it on hot and heavy.
Like a basement frat party, ’Fist of God’ has only two things on its mind: sex and alcohol. It’s incessantly down and dirty, grinding with obnoxious intent. The slick vocoders and Chromeo values have largely been shelved, and bar the Miami disco of ‘Breakaway’, ‘Fist of God’ is an animal of carnal intent. Collaboration heavy and racked with the urban flava of ‘Click Click’, ‘Bounce’ and ‘1000 cigarettes’, it’s an album pumping with bold and brash club jams, destined to get you flailing on sticky indie-disco floors or preening in super club mirrors. Whereas ‘The Looks’ was happy to stare you down with withering cool, ‘Fist of God’ drops the A-bomb, attacking you with a flurry of BPM roundhouses to the head.
You can’t accuse MSTRKRFT of lacking ambition, if a little consideration. Amidst the storm of rave sirens and rambunctious power chords, Ghostface Killah never really sounds at ease rapping over a minimal Euro-house beat, offering little more than a few repetitive expletives while ‘Heartbreaker’, with its John Legend cameo and Café Mambo-esque lethargy, is also admittedly out of place amidst the discordance. It’s, perhaps, on the infectious ‘Bounce’ that MSTRKRFT enjoy the most collaborative success – NORE’s self-effacing verses finding the perfect balance between the tempered electro backing and hip hop bravado – and the wordless ‘Vuvuvu’, allowing Jesse and Al to unleash pure, gnashing electronic aggression.
‘Fist of God’ is exactly what MSTRKRFT wanted it to be: a party record. That they cast the first stone is testament to their confidence; the fact that it proves they can still smash shit up just makes it all the sweeter.