In the “will DJs play this/will club goers like this” respect, Joker’s “The Vision” was already somewhat of a success before it even came out on the 8th of November. Tracks “Tron” and “My Trance Girl” have been out for at least a year and have already seen fairly heavy rotation in the scene. Both tracks are instrumental and fall into the dubstep genre known as purple w0w, which focuses on poppy melodic sound and which Joker helped to establish. However, because of their earlier release, these tracks have already been reviewed and reviewed again, so it’s the other tracks on the album that need to bear the critical brunt for “The Vision.”
Leaving aside these two well-known tracks, “The Vision” is a mixed bag, with four very strong single-worthy tracks, two that are less spectacular but still decent, and five that are much obviously weaker productions than the rest. The split between the good and the bad of these 11 other tracks falls directly on the line between vocal and instrumental tracks, with all five of the poorer tracks being purely instrumental and all six of the better tracks containing vocals.
Of the four best, the true stand-out track is the title track called “The Vision (Let Me Breathe),” which packs the largest bass-punch, by far the best and most catchy synth melody and some truly powerful vocals from Jessie Ware. This is the track that most solidly pulls together the elements found in the rest of the album, which is probably why it’s the title track. William Cartwright puts out some of the nicest vocals in “On My Mind,” a sexy dubstep jam about a woman, and Turboweekend member Silas belts out “Slaughter House,” which is another bass-heavy banger. “Slaughter House” in particular contains lyrics that reference a post-apocalyptic situation in a somewhat corny manner, though in this case it’s actually done artfully and works for the track. Rounding out the best tracks is “Back in The Days,” the track which Joker has said is meant to most strongly invoke his home of Bristol. “Back in The Days” is the second best track on the album, most of which is due to an excellent fuzzy bass drop and absolutely stunning vocal flow from Buggsy, Shadz, Scarz and Double, who are all fellow citizens of Bristol.
The two simply decent tracks on the album are “Lost,” featuring Buggsy and Otis Brown, and “Electric Sea,” featuring Jay Wilcox. “Lost” comes off just a little too corny due to the children who sing a heavy-handed message about people being lost, and “Electric Sea” sounds more like an R&B track, with silly sentimental lyrics like “Sometimes I don’t feel like talking.”
Despite these few bumps in the vocal tracks and five relatively weak instrumental tracks, “The Vision” has plenty on it to keep DJs playing and remixing the album. I’m positive that at least a few of these tracks will be played like mad for the next few months, and if that doesn’t make an album a club hit, nothing does. Because of that fact, “The Vision” gets a 7.5 rating for the club scene.
However, we can’t simply leave the album there. Since “The Vision” was released as an album, and since it’s his first full length work that will be the first thing most people outside of the dubstep world will hear from Joker, we have to also review this album as more than just a collection of tracks for the club.
In this regard, “The Vision” is pretty much crap. Crap with some bright spots that are less bright because of all the crap that they’re surrounded by. The thing is synth-heavy to a point where the sound becomes boring, or even that most feared word in electronic music, corny. After a few tracks, I heard the same sound palette so often that I started to wonder if Joker only has the one synthesizer. Even in the near-ambient “Intro” track, the novelty of the sound quickly wears off and I found myself envisioning Joker sitting at a keyboard just doodling about making synthy noises to his own amusement. It’s simply too much of the same, and it causes tracks like “Milky Way” and album closer “The Magic Causeway” to lose almost all of their positive qualities from sounding too much like stuff you’ve heard in the other tracks. It even lessened the enjoyment I got out of “Tron” and “My Trance Girl,” tracks that are already proven hits and which I like well-enough when played on their own.
Despite its playability in clubs and its odd pre-release status as a hit for Djs and the electronic scene, “The Vision” simply isn’t a fun listen as an album. It’s gonna get played in clubs, and you’re probably going to like some of the tracks when you hear them there, but listening through this thing from start to finish is mostly boring. Taken as a whole, “The Vision” gets a 4 out of 10.