Itís been close to six years since Englandís Sneaker Pimps joined the then cresting wave of male/female programmer/vocalist duos and trios like Portishead and Mono and scored an American hit with the sultry, trip-hoppish single "6 Underground." Much has changed in the pop landscape since the mid í90s, and the Sneaker Pimps themselves are almost an entirely different band from the chart-toppers of í96. For starters, theyíve had a sex-change operation. The dream-pop diva incantations of Kelli Dayton are gone, and with them the sexy malaise that defined the sound of the bandís debut CD. Whatís left are three studio sculptors with a yen for turntable scratching and a new singer who brings to mind the brooding David Gahan of Depeche Modeís more downcast material. Gone, too, are the traces of trip-hop that made the Sneaker Pimps seem trendy in í96, replaced by a synth-heavy sound that draws heavily from the new wave of í80s kingpins like, well, Depeche Mode.
The result is a solid if sometimes cheesy reminder that Gahan and company may have been ahead of their time with the proto-electronica of all those í80s hits. "Fuel" and "Bloodsport" pair male angst with ominous synth pulses, strummed acoustic guitars, and techno drum tones. New lead singer Chris Corner holds his own as tortured, alienated soul. And as if to prove that these Sneaker Pimps arenít a one-trick pony, "Míaidez," with its strong guitar hood and driving bass line, turns out to be a glam-rocky lament about "life lived on mobile phones." The real questionable move here is the decision to keep the Sneaker Pimps name.