Indie band Glen Check, recently covered in our K-pop Indie Gem section, announced back in June that they were working on a special EP (don’t ask me what’s the difference between a normal and a special EP) with a totally new style. That special EP turned out to be Cliché, a homage to the 80s.

As promised, Cliché is indeed something different to what we are used to from Glen Check. Mostly instrumental, Cliché has its roots in disco music; some of the beats hark back to 70s groups like the Bee Gees or Jackson 5, while also showing a bit of heavy electro-rock influence in some of the songs.

“84” and “84 The Original” are no doubt the most retro-sounding tracks of the album. The differences are slight: “84” is more processed, with funkier and more electro sounds, while “84 The Original” has a disco tone. They define the theme of the album and feel somewhat like a continuation to “60s Cardin”. Sure, “60s Cardin” was more rock and its sound more modern, but there’s definitely some relationship — aside from the title, which is the obvious one. And having a look at “60s Cardin” lyrics (above) and “84” lyrics (below) I get all the Bee Gees feels.

No matter what don’t you stay in the line
You better stay alive

You’re my lady
I’ve got you movin’

Although they are supposed to be releasing a MV for “Leather” in the next days, Hyundai Card recently released the psychedelic MV for “84” too, riddled with pop culture references.

“Blood, Sweat & The Beat” feels much more organic and much more 80s: if I felt “84” (despite the title) was a clear reference to 70s disco music, “Blood, Sweat & The Beat” sounds totally 80s when they introduce the melody around the first minute mark. The whole song is instrumental, but has a nice progression that bars the feeling of flatness.

The third track is “Leather”, probably the most reminiscent of Glen Check’s previous works. It picks up the influences of their previous works, some synthpop à la Depeche Mode, a totally Klaxons-esque indie rock chorus and some glam metal references. Its retro influence is not as clear as in the previous tracks, but it still has a very 80s voice distortion and I think that makes it more interesting than the sometimes too-obvious “84”.

“Want You Back” is the perfect conclusion to the album. It’s a perfect blend of the retro synths that pepper the album, coupled with a modern electronic feel. Where “Leather” was a bit noisy and unclear, “Want You Back” is sharp and smooth.

Glen Check’s music has always been influenced by electronica. In spite of this, the band has managed to find their own sound through their experimentations. In consideration of their newer music, the band has been favoring the synthesizer over both guitar and drums, and this tempted an association of Glen Check as Korea’s equivalent to Justice. Differences in the structure of the group overrode the similar influences and route of development for the band, though. Nevertheless, Glen Check is still clearly influenced by its forerunners like the aforementioned Justice, as well as Daft Punk, who incidentally makes references to 70s and 80s music every so often. Gleaning from the tunes of previous generations seems to be a method that’s shared and I foresee that it’ll continue to be relative in Glen Check’s offerings.

I’m inclined to read Cliché as a learning process: they took a genre they liked — 70s and 80s disco music — and melded them into the album’s five tracks. Some tracks like “84” seem to be at an earlier stage, just a homage, while “Leather” and “Want You Back” sound like a result. I liked my old Glen Check, but I’m also glad they feel the urge to experiment with new sounds — and hopefully, since this was a special EP, their next comeback will bring us the best of both styles.

Overall rating: 4.4/5

(Soundholic Entertainment, sop213)