God Fodder, Ned's Atomic Dustbin's first U.S. release, focused on the hyper punk aspect of England's "grebo" movement, relying on insanely catchy hooks and the band's dual-bass sound to keep things interesting. On Are You Normal?, they've managed to back down a bit and let the dynamics of the basses soak through the rush of power chords that dominate their early work. The result is an almost bouncy, bright album, full of great hooks and lyrical cleverness. It's less immediately gratifying than the speedy pop of God Fodder, but less disposable as well; a few songs seem like they've gone awry, somewhere, but there are enough tracks like "Not Sleeping Around" (the lodge-in-your-head single) to give fans of the early work something to hang onto. In the larger history of the band, Are You Normal? stands as the point at which the group began to develop their true sound, laying off on the exuberant punk-pop and working with the sampling, electronics, and ultramodern production that would mark their next album, Brainbloodvolume. There are, of course, a few missteps, but when the sound works, it puts quite a few of Ned's contemporaries to shame. ~ Nitsuh Abebe, Rovi
Are You Normal?