Written By: Heather Wysocki
Label: Interscope – Rating:
Break out the black eyeliner, shine up those glittery Chuck Taylors and stock up on hair gel, because Euro-pop young’uns Tokio Hotel’s latest release is all the disco ball-and-Doc-Martens fun you’d expect. Bill and Tom Kaulitz, the super-coifed supertwins behind Tokio Hotel, are finally legal, and that slight bit of maturity shows on Humanoid, their already-charting-on-the-Billboard-200 third disc. The German emo quartet that turned heads in 2005 with debut album Schrei and kept on going with 07’s Scream proves with Humanoid that Bill, and the band that provides his awesome backing, deserve recognition for more than Kaulitz’s Sonic the Hedgehog hairdo and propensity to wear more makeup than Janet Jackson.
Though Tokio Hotel – consisting of the aforementioned pompadour-and-more Kaulitz twins, plus Georg Listing, Gustav Schafer, and a host of European songwriters – might be young bucks, they certainly know how to thrash like their older eight-pointer competition. The songs range from the standout piano-driven “World Behind My Wall” to the decidedly more haunting title track and the kinky come-on “Hey You.” All are full of the androgynous vocals and crunchy guitars the band has become known for. Anthemic choruses are beautiful, while background guitars range from understated to crashing, a soulful mix that elevates Humanoid from simple emo dance-pop to emo dance pop to think about (even if those thoughts are about eyeliner and adolescent sorrow).
Bill Kaulitz’ vocals are a mix of Robert Smith and Michael Jackson, hitting the lowest of lows but nailing the highs, too. This is the sort of well-crafted pop that Depeche Mode perfected years ago and Tokio Hotel emulates magnificently, its robotic feel not cold, not formulaic, but sexy and deliberate.
Like a lot of their young emo counterparts, there’s more than just a dash of pop-culture influence on Tokio Hotel’s Humanoid. Japanese overtones and perfect-for-Twilight song titles like “Pain of Love” and “Love and Death” are a reminder that the members of Tokio Hotel are still young, though expert arrangement and an uncanny knowledge of what vocals go well with what music ensure that Tokio Hotel will experience well-deserved recognition longer than most. That said, songs like the slightly juvenile “Automatic,” a clumsy ode to love, are a hint that Tokio Hotel’s finally legal dudes should still be a wee bit careful around anything besides light beer.
Humanoid is before-its-time pop that has finally hit its epoch, a gorgeous musing on deep emotion with the perfect teenage twist. Love has never been so bittersweet.