Harlem Shakes

Burning Birthdays

by Michael Keefe

8 March 2007

 

Happy Burning Birthdays to You

I love the great EP that promises even more. Franz Ferdinand’s Darts of Pleasure, TV on the Radio’s Young Liars. Perhaps it’s unfair to put that kind of burden on this five-song debut from Brooklyn indie rock quintet Harlem Shakes. But Burning Birthdays is such a refreshing little thrill, like the sudden realization of a break in bad weather. You lift your head up, and there’s the deep spreading blue of Todd Goldstein’s ringing guitars, the driving bass of Jose Soegaard, Brent Katz’s rolling and crashing drums, and pop melodies that shimmy and wriggle and bounce around like mad. Singer Lexy Benaim’s voice is both mannered and unbound, like Morrissey circa 1984, only on helium. Harlem Shakes are bursting with restless energy, but they are never reckless with their well-crafted songs. The harmony vocals and glistening bridges keep the boys reined in just enough, as they pay service to the orderly rules of pop music. But just barely. Opening track “Carpetbaggers” mixes Elephant 6 twee catchiness with a Zutons-like, horn-punched, blues strut. “Red Right Hands” features an achingly bittersweet guitar run to die for. “Sickos” is brisk and beautiful, with chiming keys from Kendrick Strauch and the EP’s hookiest refrain, “This place is filled with sickos”, so sweetly and sadly sung. Yeah, the other two songs are great, as well. I’d be describing them right now if I didn’t think you were buying the EP this very second. Soon, you too will know the truth. Harlem Shakes are gonna be big.

Burning Birthdays

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