The album sure starts with a bang of sorts. I’m still not sure what to make of “Don’t Mess With Me,” the manic, string-filled declaration of dominance devoted to taunting potential foes and maintaining control. It’s tongue in cheek and strange, and quite a curious way to begin the album. “Don’t mess with me / ‘Cause all your heads are gonna roll / I’ve made your misery my goal / So if you want survival, kneel on my arrival / Cause this is how I rule the world,” Rob explodes after the two minute mark. It’s daunting and unexpected, but the track plays like a musical soundtrack, rather than a pop record.
In comes “Joy,” and I’m in familiar territory. One of my favorites, “Joy” is a juicy stomper on top of delicious synth-electro. Rob’s voice is top quality in “Joy,” and so is the production. “Blame,” another killer track, The lyrics are riddled with proclamations of power and dominance, which makes the arrival of “It’s Better To Have Loved,” as well as “Winter’s Coming” so well received. “It’s Better To Have Loved” has been noticeably reworked with a few extra blips in the backtrack, but is otherwise polished to near perfection, while “Not That Big” with Imogen Heap has improved since my initial listen a year ago, profiting from the inclusion of additional vocal acrobatics by Heap.
There are a few missteps; The mid-tempo seductive beat of “Crime” is too similar to “Little White Lie” for my taste. But overall, the musical variety of the album is comforting, especially as the album draws to a close with “Invisible Ink,” a minimalist, pensive track, in which Rob slowly coos “Don’t leave the world without making them think / Don’t leave the world without changing something.”
My personal favorite, “Winter’s Coming” is a perfect album closer. The song is a strict reversal of sound; anxious breathiness replace Rob’s usually confident vocals, making room for a much richer, deeper musical experience, similar to the styling of Darren Hayes, that wins me over in this soaring ballad produced by Guy Sigsworth.
Overall, The Invisible Line is an album that toys with conceptions of contempt and greed, power and longing within the simplest of lyrics and catchiest of melodies. Many of the tracks are fun, chorus-heavy synth-stompers with deliciously sinister hooks, yet there are inklings of a more mature, eclectic sound hidden deep beneath the glossed layers.
Overall Grade: A-
And you, what do you think?