The result is immediately apparent: The Bristol boys have never been this polished before—displaying a sound even glossier than that of 2004's Don't Look Now. "Future Perfect" and "Bodymotion" lead the club cuts, wearing on their sleeve a heart that beats for '80s new wave, but with an inherently ultramodern focus. Clearly the duo are favouring dance floor funk over pop ballads, but the tracks retain that feel of live instrumentation and organic percussion that separated Don't Look Now from its prog-era predecessors. And whereas in the past their music has tended to wander, often ending up somewhere totally different to where it originally started, Warren and Wisternoff have now moved to a simplified and far more direct structure.
Some of WOW's most endearing moments have been female-led, but this time around the group has ditched a woman's touch for Brooklynite Jonathan Mendelsohn. Luckily, the singer adapts fittingly to his surroundings, not simply because his vocals on tracks like "Only Love" and "Surrender" are so fraught with the kind of emotive lyrics one has come to expect, but also because his falsetto tone resembles a female voice anyway. "Survival" is the closest he gets to an "Anything But You" or "Mindcircus" moment without quite getting there. And, on first listen, it's downright cringe-worthy. But given time and repeated listening, the unashamed sappiness grows and infects, reminiscent of how those past classics were at first impression.
Elsewhere, "The Doors Are Where the Windows Should Be" serves as a nice counterpoint of chilled, psychedelic breakbeat, however it's "One Bright Night" that truly shines as Machine's downtempo highlight. Breezy, balearic and with a wink to the nu-disco that inspired it, it comes off as something that Aeroplane probably wish they had made.
Although it's clearly a move towards a more melodic, pop driven sound, We Love Machine is still full of the same warm basslines and spacey noises that have always been a part of Way Out West's uniquely rich and detailed take on progressive. More consistent and fun than Don't Look Now and markedly different from Intensify, it's their finest album to date.