ALBUM REVIEW – “The Neuromancer” by William Control

With the band that made him a well-known figure in the music world, Aiden, looking likely to come to an end in the not-too-distant future, the importance of William Francis’ solo project is greater now than ever before. A far cry from the horror punk meets post-hardcore of his day job, the fourth William Control album sees him continue to explore the dark, theatrical synthpop that he’s wholeheartedly delved into from the outset of the project, frequently putting as much emphasis on conceptual development and mood as the songs themselves. The Neuromancer is however undoubtedly the strongest record he’s put the William Control name to in terms of the music itself.

The progress that he’s made with each album is very clear, the distance he’s covered from his overwrought and tepid debut hugely impressive. Whereas his earlier material often put style over substance, the songs on The Neuromancer have enough weight to carry the heady concepts that William toys with through his lyrics. Frequently he expands tracks beyond traditional pop runtimes in order to flesh them out thematically, but if anything this gives them room to breathe and encourages the flow of the album as a whole very nicely.

Musically, there’s much to enjoy here, from the shimmering synthesizers of ‘Price We Pay’ and ‘Illuminator’ to the slow burning climb through ‘The Filth and the Fetish’. Rich production embellishes the often sinister atmosphere without going too far into the schlocky, another improvement on previous works. The juxtaposition between the sharp edges of ‘Love is a Shadow’ and tasteful, understated closer ‘Where the Angels Burn’ is masterful, William flitting between moods effortlessly.

Lyrically he has a habit of going somewhat overboard at times, and the spoken word sections can be a drag, but William Control clearly understands how to write good pop hooks and often overcomes his lyrical ostentatiousness through this, most notably on ‘God is Dead’. Having said that, there are a few darkly comedic lyrical gems that this reviewer will not spoil for future listeners because when he gets it right, William gets it very right. His chalky baritone is suited to the music, and indeed the dark storytelling vibe.

Easily the finest example of how good William Control has the potential to be, The Neuromancer is an excellent alternative pop album that overcomes most, if not all of the obstacles that have plagued its creator in the past. Abandoning the kooky gothic feel altogether would undeniably rob his music of much of its character, and the balance between that and the songs themselves has been struck better than ever previously. Not a traditional synthpop artist by any means, William Control does provide something exciting here that forms an intriguing path into his clearly vivid, if vile, imagination.

Rating: 8/10

[Michael Bird]




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