The latest quizzical signing by 4AD is L.A.-based brother duo Inc. (shortened from Teen Inc.), and its debut EP 3 is a pretentious disaster, a record that demonstrates some of the worst excesses of self-loving hipster culture. Apparently no strangers to a formless gob of pop stars, from 50 Cent and Raphael Saadiq to Elton John and Beck, with whom the duo has “toured and recorded”, Inc. strikes a cooler-than-thou pose, and takes a stab at Prince-like pop-soul that lumbers out the front door looking gaudy and foolish. 3’s combo of ghastly synths and hilariously dated hip-hop beats is enough to sicken the palette, while the vocalists coo and preen without saying anything at all. In “Swear,” listeners are treated to lines like, “So cross your heart and hope to die” (clever!) sung ad nauseam, and the kind of hip-hop drum machines you heard in VH1 videos where everyone had tall hair. “Millionairess” is dead on arrival, as flashy and empty as the upper-class allusion in its title. Of 3’s three bombs, “Heart Crimes” does the least damage, with its drawn-out whips and sticky hi-fi piano hitting a vaguely emotional note, but it leaves a cloying taste like too much aspartame. At best, Inc. has fumbled the ball in a sincere attempt to filter romanticism and sex appeal through its questionable lens. At worst, Inc. is sneering ironically, and 3 is that oh-so-ironic thing: a soul record with almost no soul.
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