[21 November 2007]
PopMatters Interviews Editor
Very few bands can pull off the feat of the cutesy band name. As ridiculous as The Flaming Lips’ name is, somehow it fits the music they make. They therefore have made a successful career of their own brand of oddball pop. A lesser-known band with a great name is the Nick Cave-gone-country Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash. Yet it’s hard to envision a review of the eighth album by a band named You Say Party! We Say Die! Oh sure, it’s fun to say, but it’s a cutesy band name that can only exist in indie rock and only for a limited time. Of course, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah overcame their somewhat awkward band name by just releasing some damn good music. YSP!WSD! do not have as fortunate a boon.
In perhaps one of the year’s oddest matching of influences, You Say Party! We Say Die! inexplicably has a sound rooted somewhere between the primal rawk of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the blatant quirkiness of early B-52s. This oddball pairing becomes immediately apparent on the barnstorming album opener “Five Year Plan”, which feels like the most overcaffinated bare-bones rock song of the year. It also establishes the musical palette that they follow for a majority of Lose All Time, their debut full-length: giddy drums, briskly strummed dry electric, fiery bass, and a cacophony of keyboard trills. Unfortunately, by sticking to this formula wholeheartedly, the band doesn’t do much to distinguish one song from another, making the whole thing kind of blur together. By itself, a song like “Teenage Hit Wonder” sounds like a grand ol’ piece of indie-rock, but when preceded by the mildly catchier “Opportunity”, you begin to wonder if the band has anything else in their big bag of tricks.
Fortunately, they do. Lead single “Monster” is a delicious break from the pack, largely due to the band’s more economical approach, with the guitars riding shotgun next to the keyboards for once. Though the lyrics on a per-song basis are somewhat hard to decipher, largely due to singer Becky Ninkovic’s voice being buried low in the mix, they ultimately play second fiddle to the galloping rhythms and whiplash guitars. “Poison” is buoyed by a hypnotic synth line, while “Moon” truly revels in that aforementioned B-52s influence, coming off like the dark, evil counterpart to that band’s “52 Girls”.
Yet, much like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs before them, WSP holds its ace for last: a gorgeous, haunting piano ballad about the idealism of love called “Dancefloor Destroyer”. It’s a welcome change of pace from the frantic caterwaul that surrounds the rest of the disc. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s rooted in a beautiful melody that oddly recalls Marketa Irglova’s piano ballad at the end of the movie Once. It’s this last minute highlight that almost makes you forgive the band for tacking on a vulgar, meandering, and unbelievably pointless 15-minute suite of keyboard noodling at the end of closer “Quiet World”.
Lose All Time is certainly a good, occasionally thrilling record filled with unabashed indie-rock fury. Unfortunately, We Say Party! You Say Die! show few signs of growing outside their strict self-imposed parameters. A ballad as strong as “Dancefloor Destroyer” is a step in the right direction. But if all else fails, hey, at least they have a great band name.