Music Review: The Airborne Toxic Event – Dope Machines

You were just always talking about changing

The line from The Airborne Toxic Event’s second album has never been more relevant than with the release of their fourth album Dope Machines. With the long-awaited record comes a surprise change to the band’s sound, seeing them move into a new synth keyboard-driven territory that has fans divided.

Lots of people are unhappy with Airborne’s new sound, missing their familiar folk rock and roll vibe. What these people seem to be forgetting is that Airborne has always jumped from one musical style to another. Their debut album is a punk-influenced masterpiece, bold and energetic, that seems to be bursting with happiness just because it’s able to exist. All At Once has the same sense of wonder, but it’s refined with an orchestral discipline that makes it soar. Such Hot Blood strips back this massive sound, offering a banjo-infused folk take on the rock sound. Dope Machines just takes this evolution another step further. It does away with the guitars and violas in favour of an unsympathetically fearless synth driven, drum driven sound that I can only describe as ‘epic’.


Those who don’t feel cheated by this change have found a lot to love about Dope Machines. The new synth sound gives Airborne a chance to explore new ground, and they have exploded into the genre with impressive technical ability and passion. Lead singer Mikel Jollett’s lyrics are as poetic as ever, and they have a compelling new home in the throbbing synth beats that make them all the more interesting. And while Airborne’s sound may have changed, their energy is still undeniably the same. These songs may be different but they feel like Airborne songs. You’ve always been able to hear the band having fun and loving what they’re doing, and that comes across crystal clear in Dope Machines.

Now we stare at each other like a sister to a brother, like a pusher to a shover, like a secret to a cover, like a lover to a lover under covers with the stereo on

The drastic change in sound doesn’t mean that Airborne has changed any of the things that I love about them. Dope Machines’ songs hook me in mercilessly—with a riff, a line, a harmony—and never let me go as they build perfectly. The grandness of ‘Sometime Around Midnight’ or ‘Innocence’ can be found again in Dope Machines’ ‘Chains’, and the unhinged energy of ‘This is Nowhere’ is put into ‘Wrong’ and ‘Time to be a Man’. The one thing I’m disappointed by is that Dope Machines feels like it’s missing the playful nature of previous songs like ‘Happiness is Overrated’ and ‘True Love’. But with every album offering a different experience I can accept this as a harmless character flaw—the fun songs are great but Dope Machines offers something else. If offers a grand take on Airborne’s obvious passion for making music, and solidifies them as a wonderful band in and of themselves, not only when considered within the limits of a certain genre. In the words of Jollett himself: “And yeah, genre. Who cares?


For anyone still unconvinced by the change, or for anyone who wants another hit, Airborne released a surprise second album along with Dope Machines. Songs of God and Whiskey is a collection of acoustic rock songs that sound like the band had a whole lot of fun in the studio one day and emerged with an album. Songs of God and Whiskey sounds like an entire record of the band’s Bombastic videos—acoustic covers of their songs, filmed on boats and in lounge rooms, with drums replaced by fists banging on car roofs—and is, at its heart, a gift to fans. Some songs are old unreleased ones that fans will recognise from live shows and some are totally new. All are amazing. Fantastically fun and catchy, I can, and have, spent all day listening to it on repeat.

All my young life, I’ve been trying to say just one thing right

If you’re already an Airborne fan, I hope you can see past the change to recognise how impressive Dope Machines is. It’s everything you love about the band, it just has a new wrapper. If you’ve never listened to them before, Dope Machines is still an enjoyable record that will hook you in and make you dance. If this is their latest change, I can’t wait to be surprised by their next one!

Check out Wrong, the first single from Dope Machines below!

Article by Alana Young

Twitter: @alana_groffle

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