IAMX is one of the many musical aliases of Chris Corner - better known as the man behind the electro shapeshifters the Sneaker Pimps. For "The Alternative," the second IAMX full-length, Corner assumes a visual and sonic persona not unlike that of David Bowie's dissolute, European and sinister Thin White Duke, revelling in a performance dripping with old-world decadence and a fetish-club update of Keith Richards'"elegantly wasted" ethos. Corner's voice goes from deep and commanding to a crystalline falsetto at the drop of a (peaked, leather) cap, full of seductive yearning, while a mix of coked-out disco, stadium-ready electronics a-la Depeche Mode and glammed-out EBM swirls woozily all around him.
Lest ye think it's all Caligula-with-a-synthesizer and the record is gonna leave fluids and used needles on your record player, don't worry sweetness, the ratio of Saturday night to Sunday morning songs is way more even than you'd expect. Tear-soaked torch numbers like "S.H.E" and "This Will Make You Love Again" display an earnest vulnerability, like there's a Frank Sinatra circa "In The Wee Small Hours" buried under all the PVC, leather and smeared makeup, struggling to escape an endless cycle of bathroom stalls and one-night stands. Epic. For the most part though, the album is darker and more rhythmic, with songs like "Nightlife" attempting to approximate the Stooges headlining a rave (while copping the riff of U2's "Discotheque"), glammy stompers like "The Alternative" and "Spit It Out" going into full-on dancefloor dramatics and grand diva gestures. Additionally, the whole album has just enough cabaret influences and music hall flourishes to lend it a fin de siècle feel, where every cruelty and kindess becomes cinematic in scope. Did I mention that fucking falsetto? I did? As with love affairs, there are a couple of clunkers like the She Wants Revenge pastiche "Negative Sex" and the clattery cod-industrial of "Bring Me Back A Dog." He's better than all that. Throwing darts in lovers' eyes...