12 Rounds

MTV Online Review of My Big Hero

Sometimes, good things come in surprising packages. On first glance, the art/goth cover art and the Nothing (read: Trent Reznor’s) label imprint automatically lead one to believe that 12 Rounds’ US debut is going to be an overwrought and melancholy machine-fest. And, with that in mind, the first few listens bear that out: this digitally-fixated group does certainly venture into the dark night of the soul, angry, hurt and with bleeding hearts bared.

Yet, they do so armed not only with an eye towards sonic perfection, but also with the knowledge that there is a fine line between emotion and pretense. Primarily a duo (vocalist Claudia Sarne and programmer/auteur Atticus Ross), 12 Rounds is augmented on all tracks by guitarist Mark DeLane Lea, as well as several other co-conspirators, including Bomb The Bass maestro Tim Simenon. This flexible lineup lends My Big Hero a vast sonic pallete, one that would have not been achieved had the duo simply holed up Curve-style in the studio. Thus, the record is not some sort of one-note-Johnny emotional barrage, but instead a tightly controlled adventure.

12 Rounds shines most brightly when they throw it all together and then throw it in your face, like on the full-tilt “Bovine” (a hate/dance/love song that will break your heart as it splits your skull), the hauntingly mellow textures of the trip-hoppy title track or the funky, Morricone-flecked “Where Fools Go” (perhaps the only song this writer has ever heard that has sampled Nick Cave well). It’s on these numbers that 12 Rounds’ obvious dedication to sound is at its most apparent, and, as a result, they’re complex, unique and ultimately the most rewarding, setting the standard for the rest of the album. And, though the remaining seven tracks (God, how long has it been since you’ve bought an album with only 10 songs?) are certainly within the same parameters, they fall just slightly short of the former’s high mark.

That said, 12 Rounds may not be for everyone. There’s little here in the way of expressive ingenuity: most of the record is painted in black and white, with an emphasis on black. And though Tim Simenon is on board, much of the programming, though quite capable, falls a little short on the inventive scale. Nonetheless, it’s a perfect soundtrack for rainy days, nervous breakdowns or aggro dance night.