She Hates Emotions
Out of Line
Somehow Chris Pohl has found time in his busy Blutengel schedule to found synthpop project She Hates Emotions and record its debut album Melancholic Maniac. In theory this isn’t the worst idea; his main project’s ridiculous release schedule (seriously, they released two full LPs last year alone) has seen diminishing returns in terms of quality, and it stands to reason that doing something a bit different might help Pohl shake off some of his creative inertia.
In practice, though, Melancholic Maniac is pretty half-baked. While the synthpop flavour is played up in spots – check the vintage drum programming and octave bass on standout “The Final Dance” and the classic arps that lead “City Lights” – a lot of these songs don’t feel fully realized. A track like “Edge of the Night” starts promisingly enough with a big synth lead and snappy drum machine programming, but never really lives up to the drama of Pohl’s vocal delivery, losing momentum and eventually rolling to a stop. “Cry Wolf” suffers a similar fate: despite its meaty bassline and a fun new wave hook it meanders around in circles from an arrangement standpoint, never quite settling into a pop groove.
Part of the issue might be conceptual; Chris Pohl is a reasonably good producer and has a fair amount of vocal charisma, and his best work both in Blutengel and the defunct Terminal Choice has always involved going way, way over the top. Synthpop is hardly the subtlest genre of music, but it does generally favour minimalism in terms of arrangement, relying on big hooks or distinctive vocals and arrangement to carry a tune. Pohl just isn’t that kind of artist, and attempts to wed the style to his distinctive brand of vampire fromage never quite come together. “Leaving” might have been a good Blutengel ballad in another incarnation but in the actual version is anemic, with a too thin arrangement and mix. To highlight the issue, the best moment on the record is certainly the track “Ghosttown”, whose tacky choral pads and theremin sounds are less tasteful but more charming than the production on the surrounding tracks.
In fairness there’s nothing offensively poor on Melancholic Maniac, but neither is there much worth giving more than a casual listen. It has the air of something tossed off, perhaps an attempt at a proof of concept or Pohl feeling out different styles of music (bonus track “LIEBEN” being a weird hybrid old-school EBM track would seem to support those theories). Whatever the motivation was, the album mostly plays as competent but forgettable modern European synthpop with occasional 80s production touches. Pohl’s fanbase might find more to enjoy, but casual listeners are unlikely to give it too many listens beyond the first.