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Review: Maserati, 'Rehumanizer'

Note: NPR's audio for First Listens comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

Cover art for <em>Rehumanizer.</em>
/ Courtesy of the artist.
Courtesy of the artist.
Cover art for Rehumanizer.

Fifteen years into its existence, Maserati might have finally found its time. One side of the Georgia band's sound — a dramatic soar that evokes '80s movie-thriller soundtracks — is currently back in style, with horror scores getting reissued on vinyl and a master of the form, director John Carpenter, making new music again. Meanwhile, Krautrock, whose chugging motorik beats course through Maserati's music, is enjoying yet another renaissance via recent touring by genre figurehead Kraftwerk.

Perhaps none of that matters to Maserati, whose members have patiently developed their retro-futurist sound without much concern for trends or fashion. But if the time is right for their reach to grow, Rehumanizer is an excellent calling card. Everything they do well is on display in these six tracks, which are filled with driving bass, churning guitars, vacuum-sealed rhythm and smartly built crescendos. There are even nods to the band's early years, when Maserati favored cinematic swells and arena-worthy atmosphere (some ascending guitar parts, like the ringing riffs in "Rehumanizer 1," recall U2's The Edge). But the bulk of Rehumanizer is sleek, pedal-to-the-metal rock, sharply executed by a group thoroughly committed to its own stylistic cause.

Yet Maserati's devotion isn't somber or self-important. There's a humorous wink to this music, as the band acknowledges its old-school vibe and never takes itself too seriously. Maserati's members are clearly more in this for the fun of riding their own waves than for any tech-obsessed pursuit of precision — a trap that often ensnares this kind of music. Take "End Of Man," whose talk-box vocals and snap-lock beat sound like a robot party that lasts way past midnight. But despite the group's self-awareness, there's no irony or mocking in-jokes on Rehumanizer. Maserati simply knows what it's doing and loves doing it.

That combination of commitment and joy makes Rehumanizer a lot of fun. Maserati's experienced craftsmanship produces a seemingly effortless journey, with no bumps in the road or sharp turns around the corner. Every track cruises smoothly down a pristine highway, making Maserati the musical equivalent of a luxury race car, built for comfort and speed. So what if that means its name is a bit too on-the-nose? All that matters is that the music is right on the money.

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