Mike Slifkin Alternative Podcaster – Smoke and Mirrors Review

Written by Mike Slifkin – NUPOD / Alternative Podcaster
“Smoke & Mirrors is the 3rd album from Tenek following on from Stateless in 2009 and On The Wire in 2010. The album kicks off with Everything Lost, a bass heavy grower of a track that oozes subtlety whilst still having one of those killer Tenek choruses that you find yourself singing along to. On this track, you know you’re on safe familiar ground. A solid start and a good way to reintroduce Tenek after a long absence. 8/10
Next up is Fear For Nothing. Another bass heavy funky slab of Tenek with rolling drums and the immediate hook of the vocal line of “Inside, Outside we goooo.” It’s sure to be a live favourite and I can see it working in a stadium (dream big boys, you never know). 9/10
The album is 11 tracks long so although Another Day was first released in 2013, they have added songs from up to a couple of years ago to add value to the album. This is also a slightly different version and lasts for an extra minute. A cracking keyboard line with “delayed” guitar effect kick this song off. The only negative for me on this track is some overly treated vocals in places but it’s only a minor gripe. The rest is perfect Tenek with lots of various elements to the song to keep the listener entertained. 9.5/10
What Kind Of Friend? came out in September of 2015 as the build up to the album increased. It’s definitely a headphones track. So much going on in the mix but ultimately, it’s another good pop song that would also work well in the clubs. Especially the Andy Gray remix on the single version. 9/10
Blue Man starts off with a kind of organ sound and thumping controlled drums which gives way to a lush ballad. There appears to be a theme running through the album lyrically about being stabbed in the back and having been manipulated in some way. Totally different feel to this track but you still know it’s Tenek. Great stuff. One of my favourites. 9.5/10
The mood changes again as it’s time for Headlights. Everything they do is well produced and mixed, but for me, this is probably the weakest track on the album. It sounds good but they spent too long on the production and not enough on the song on this one for me. I have to be honest (which is difficult when you know the people personally) otherwise the point of reviewing the album is well, pointless. 6/10
A New Foundation appeared on the Another Day EP so we’re on familiar ground again. This is the album version although I didn’t detect a lot of difference to the single version. A real favourite of mine so it’s nice to hear it again. A mid paced track featuring prominent snare drum and other electronic percussive effects. It should be noted that the piano fill works perfectly on this track too. “It’s all done with smoke and mirrors.” 10/10
Sunlight is the next track. This has a kind of Second Summer Of Love feel about it. Anyone remember The Beloved? A summery track that would work best sitting around a pool sipping cocktails. Mellow. 7.5/10
Imitation Of Life is the closest they get to synthpop on this album. SYNTHPOP SYNTHPOP SYNTHPOP. There, I said it! A really catchy Take On Me style of keyboard playing. Another highlight with hooks aplenty, singalong and danceable too. It also has one of those trademark Tenek breakdowns. 9.5/10
Soloman was a track that definitely took a few listens to appreciate. A clever song because ultimately, it’s a slow paced track but the way it’s been produced enables you to dance to it (in your head at least) which is a difficult trick to pull off. 8/10
Strangely, the final track is the title track. A great feel to this one. “Feels like something’s gonna happen today anyway” is a great hook and there’s some very clever bass playing going on in the mix too, then some killer synths and another breakdown! What’s not to like. Another subtle track, and all the better for it. Then silence followed by some excellent drumming and we’re done. 9/10
A very difficult task to follow up On The Wire and whilst I still just prefer the previous album, I’d say it’s better than Stateless due to the consistency of the songs. You’d do better to find anything as well produced from any current artist with thousands of pounds thrown at them, so Geoff especially has to take a bow. That said, it’s a team effort and the real bass and real drummer definitely adds to the experience. It would be interesting to hear what it would sound like with an acoustic drum set up.The biggest compliment I can give Tenek is that with almost every new album that comes out, whether it be by new or established artists, there are always tracks that I can suggest sound like something else from the past. With this album (and most of their back catalogue), every track just sounds like Tenek, which is a very rare thing. Everything seems to be more homogenised these days. The hardware and software that is available, and the recording techniques and even singing style by a lot of artists so long may they continue to inspire and entertain.”
You can listen to his podcasts here -> NUPOD / Podreceiver PodOmatic