The San Francisco trio Numbers posed recently for a telling, if slightly corny, photo shoot. Mimicking a famous pose of German electronic music icons Kraftwerk, they appear militarily stiff in identical rows. They stare blankly facing, instead of Kraftwerk's gigantic synthesizers, three automated teller machines. It's a satirical comment on both modern consumerism and inescapable technology in music and everyday life. The group loudly announces this attitude on their full-length debut Numbers Life, and they do it in less than 20 minutes. A relatively young band, Numbers has adopted an aesthetic very familiar to fans of bands like British funky agitators Gang of Four. Split between brittle guitar, bubbling Moog synthesizers and their adorably named contraption Buzzerk, a Numbers original creation, their sound moves quickly. Vocalist Indra Dunis sputters and shrieks while pounding a solid four-four beat.
Starting with "I'm Shy," an anthem, many songs belie a healthy obsession with DEVO. "Human Replace" does another take on their tech fascination (to near-parody proportions) with lyrics from a voice mailbox: "If you know your extension/You can dial it now." This is really fun, danceable stuff (see, "We Like Having These Things"), and while their politics are well-intentioned, their robotic lyrical style needs an update. It's just too 1979. Since this is Numbers' first big effort, though, they have plenty of time to use the punk-funk revival as merely a jumping off point. In a hilarious twist of fate, CDBB, the folks who provide the CD info read by a computer, mismatched the Numbers info with the data for Big Audio Dynamite's Greatest Hits. As it turns out, "C'mon Every Beatbox" sounds at home as a song title here anyway.