If a nerd is someone who's conversant with technology and obsessive about detail, then I would submit that most great dance music is made by nerds. Usually this can be hard to spot, amidst all the lyrics about going to clubs and meeting attractive strangers, but every now and then you'll come across an artist who owns their geekiness. Ben Jacobs, an Englishman who records as Max Tundra, is one of these. On "Which Song," a manic track from the 2008 album Parallax Error Beheads You (the title refers to a photographic glitch that sometimes afflicts cheap cameras), Jacobs places his dorkhood front and center.
"Fashion, sport, and image are worlds I cannot stand," Jacobs sings, over a bed of restless synths. "But I can't avoid them as I walk across this land." Later, he admits that "this jumper was bought for 20p / The trousers and shirt were thrown in free." We're not dealing with a seasoned lounge lizard here. Jacobs delivers most of the lyrics in falsetto, carefully enunciating the borders of each syllable; his high, delicate tones only make him sound more vulnerable as he lays his shortcomings bare. (Voicewise, Jacobs has said that he enjoys comparisons to the Scritti Politti singer Green Gartside, which is good, since they're all but inevitable.)
The music, a hurricane of keyboard riffs, sometimes supports Jacobs's voice and sometimes seems to fight against it. There are moments where the music leans too far in a direction it shouldn't--here it sounds too brittle, there too video-gamey--but then Jacobs throws in some muscular chords and things right themselves. He may be at sea when it comes to the dating world, but in the studio, at least, his hand is sure.
On iTunes: Max Tundra / "Which Song"
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