Music makes the bourgeoisie and the rebels
There are, PG Wodehouse once said, only two ways of reviewing a record. This is one of the second kind: where we resist the temptation to describe every song in every last little detail, but instead present some sort of cack-handed impressionist overview of the whole.
MUSIK—they insist on the uppercase—is the fourth CD from Slumber Party, an all-girl band from Detroit led by that affront to the spellchecker, Ms. Aliccia Berg. I know it’s the fourth because the group’s previous album was titled 3, and a new renaissance woman like Aliccia surely wouldn’t lie to me. Not after making me abuse the third letter like that.
Rumour has it that after 3, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, fiction-writer, DJ, and god-knows-what-else, Aliccia restricted her band to playing covers of songs from the likes of Prince, Bowie, Joy Division, VU, and the Shaggs until she finally got a sense of where Slumber Party should go next. You can hear the version of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” at the band’s MySpace. The answer, when it came to her, was obvious. Retain the same combination of atmospheric beauty and attitude that has defined all her previous works, but move away from the upbeat pure pop sensibilities and harmonies of 3, and lurch instead back towards the droning psychedelia of second album Psychedelicate, while remembering always to throw fresh gentle pop moves into the overall quadrilateral equation. The key word here is probably simplicity. Though it could be togetherness.
Slumber Party is a four-piece consisting of Aliccia, Naomi Ruth, Alia Allen, and Raquel Tolentino Salaysay. Aliccia gets to program the drum machine, while her three amigas each add percussion. Above and beyond their largely primitive beats, Naomi plays keyboards and synthesiser, while Raquel contributes bass and synthesiser, and Alia plays what you could just about call lead guitar. For her part, Aliccia also plays guitar, piano, synthiser and organ; but sadly no trombone. However, the key point is that the four all take it in turns to sing. Aliccia takes most of the lead vocals, of course. But Naomi sings “So Sick”; Raquel, “Hey Hey China”; Alia, “Madeupmind”. And so on and so forth.
There is little or nothing new here, of course. How could there be? But MUSIK slaps some happy juxtapositions on the flagpole, and I salute Slumber Party for them. It’s pick and mix time. Select your choice from early Pink Floyd, Here Come the Warm Jets, Galaxie 500, and Blur. Then take any one from Girls At Our Best, Kleenex, the Raincoats, and Marine Girls. Stir your two choices together over a mild gas flame. Add a little ‘60s girly pop, or perhaps an Eastern motif to taste, and the chances are you’ve just perfectly described at least one of the songs on MUSIK.
And I mean that in a good way.