Personnel: Math Biship (keyboards, programming); Miguel DeVivo, John K. Morrical, Jr. (keyboards).
Photographer: Paul Himmel.
Seizing upon their switch from Island to Epic -- a shift in major-label affiliation that may not matter to those who don't read the fine print -- the Airborne Toxic Event use their new home as an excuse to let the heavy cloud surrounding them dissipate somewhat. Previously enamored with all matter of arty post-punk architecture, they haven't quite shaken their inclination toward frostbitten guitars or slow-rolling, synthesized fog, but there's a deftness to ATE's execution on Dope Machines that was absent on their three previous albums. They are still drawn toward the murk, closing the record with a pair of numbers that recall the roiling 2013 set Such Hot Blood, but they're not averse to actual, palpable pop hooks, the kind that have a tint of trashiness to them. Wisely, Dope Machines is front loaded with these songs -- the shimmering sexiness of the glam/new wave hybrid "One Time Thing," the neon Springsteen rush of "California" -- whose sound trumps lyrics of "cheap-ass wine" and "a face on a Tumblr." At these moments, Airborne Toxic Event seems to be channeling a little of the shamelessness of the Killers, but ATE are too controlled to get truly silly, which sometimes works to their benefit on Dope Machines. They bring in just enough flair and melodic swagger to loosen up their tight control and the result is a bigger, brighter, better record that distills their post-punk obsessions to something sweeter and sometimes addictive. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine