- by Jeff Penczak Rating:3 Release Date:2016-01-28 Label: Columbia
The Brooklyn-based synth-pop duo’s third album doesn’t start too encouragingly, with ‘Look Up’ bleeping and blooping its way through silly Gerald McBoing Boing sound-effects which suggest it was recorded in some cheesy arcade in the Palace Pier. Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from there.
Caroline Polachek’s vocals are still arresting and invitingly coy, but recent collaborations with Beyoncé have infused horrible hip-hop clunkiness into tracks like ‘Polymorphing’ and ‘Romeo’, turning an exciting synth--pop act into boring disco-cum-techno noisemongers running roughshod across your ears like a runaway train. I kept hoping each subsequent track would reintroduce the crafty hooks and memorable melodies of yore, but instead I had to wade through unlistenable garbage like ‘Ch-Ching’, with goofy “oi-eey”, “oi-eey”s, glitchy electronics, silly whispered nonsense, and syncopated bleating that had me reconsidering everything that made my smile throughout Does You Inspire You.
The glitch machine is out in full force on the muddled ‘Crying In Public’, which yearns for sympathy but drives us away with incredibly silly lyrics that sound like they were pilfered from some tweenie’s diary. ‘Ottowa To Osaka” is more of the same – hiccupping rhythms, belching electronics, syncopated vocals that chase themselves up and down the scales hoping for a happy medium ground, only to resort to tired, old spoken word nonsense syllables that make Liz Fraser’s Coctese sound like Shakespeare. Ugh!
OK, so the title track is actually catchy and worth a spin or two around the dancefloor, but even Madonna stopped recording stale stuff like this sometime in the last century. And interrupting the beat to drop in some spoken word pronouncement is still as annoying as splitting your spandex during some wild-eyed jack-knife move, and just about as painful. And by the time I reached the “who goosed that soprano” squeals of the Prince-ly ‘Show U Off’, it was time to abandon ship before I wrote something really nasty.
So, unfortunately, a once-promising band gets written off as stale and devoid of new ideas. Jumping on this silly hip-hop, disco, techno bandwagon may be partially the result of major label pressure to produce a hit, but the charts are full of this crap, so go back to their debut and enjoy classic synth pop like ‘Bruises’ and ‘Planet Health, and then nostalgically yearn for what could have been and lament over how such promise has been reduced to yesterday’s recycled break beats.
I loved their debut, not listened to this yet but I thought their second was a let down as well.