Fischerspooner's 2002 album #1 came out just as the hype about electroclash was shifting into backlash mode, and since the New York neo-technopop collective was perhaps the genre's best-known entity, it caught the brunt of the bursting bubble. Also, #1 wasn't very goodit mostly reworked existing Fischerspooner club singles into overproduced, overthought bombast, geared for an over-the-top stage show. The band's new album, Odyssey, improves its recording style significantly. Fischerspooner still underdevelops its melodies and overcooks its mixes, but Odyssey contains a fair number of songs like the opener, "Just Let Go," a lean dance track with a memorable chorus, buzzing guitars, and some deft keywork. And at its best, the band whips up songs as exquisite as "A Kick In The Teeth," a pretty, atmospheric pop ballad that balances romantic resignation with a swinging sophistication, insisting that the end of an affair isn't the end of the world. Odyssey ends with "Circle," which works a minimalist melodic signature into the kind of mantra-like electro-noise that M83 specializes in. It's nothing that dozens of other electronic music acts don't do better, but it's exciting as a capper to another album of processed blips and bloops.
Still, as neo-technopop goes, Fischerspooner can't match Alan Astor, whose sincere optimism is the polar opposite of electroclash's ironic nostalgia. The songs on Astor's debut album, Everything Is Possible, don't sound dated in the least, unless that date is half a century from now. Astor combines futurist electronics with gritty analog rock instruments and a sensibility that drifts toward free jazz and proggy mysticism. He's capable of a spacey ballad like "The World Is A Lot," which sounds like the show-stopping number from a science-fiction musical, and hard-edged dance music like "Fantastic Fantasy" and "Astral America," which play ominous techno-rumbles against Astor's gruff, sweet voice and surging synths. Astor's free-ranging, forward-looking pop sense is matched by Everything Is Possible's positivist vision. Anthems like "Power After Hours" almost imply that Tony Robbins is about to step out of the shadows with a wonderful message about how we can change our lives.