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Blaqk Audio: Cexcells

Album: Cexcells
Label: Interscope

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Great electro-pop records tend to feel effortless: They build on throbbing synth lines and burst into infectious choruses that can move festival-going masses as easily as packed nightclubs. Unfortunately, the long-incubating debut from Blaqk Audio, the glitchy side project of AFI's Jade Puget and Davey Havok, isn't great electro-pop. Throughout Cexcells, which the duo recorded during breaks from their bill-paying day job, they awkwardly pay homage to techno-leaning romantics Covenant and Depeche Mode, delivering a lot of industrial flourishes and not much else. Where the majority of these songs should pulse with tension, they mostly linger, abandoning the well-polished hooks and dramatic breakdowns that long ago turned Puget and Havok into Hot Topic demigods. Worse still, Havok often ditches his brawny arena-emo wail for an unnatural, highly forgettable drawl. He and Puget may have scratched an itch with this project, but in the end, the songs didn't really need to leave their respective hard drives.