Heartsrevolution: Ride or Die

[23 April 2014]

By Matt James

The Class of 2008 were a feisty bunch. Full of piss ‘n’ vinegar. Ready to not so much wait politely in reception as “Blow the bloody doors off, storm the palace and put the King’s head on a spike.” DIY riot grrls and Burroughsian wild boys with hotwired hardware, situationist sloganeering and sex pistol vitriol. The world was theirs for the taking. Crystal Castles… Kap Bambino… Heartsrevolution… on the frontline with napalm in their bellies. Alphabeat and Late of the Pier maybe nearer the back making tea and sandwiches. “On the count of 1-2-3-4, unleash hell!” But then not much happened and everyone basically went home. It must’ve been a school night. La Bambino and Alice’s army of course continue the good fight, but deep in the underground surviving as “Soldiers of Fortune” on an “If you can find them” basis. A bit like the A-Team. But what of Heartsrevolution? The caped crusaders with the pink eyemasks and glittery ice cream truck rammed with trinkets ‘n’ treats? Y’know, Ben and Lo with the unicorns and bunnies? Had they been a candy-cane coma illusion? 

As seasons passed, Heartsrevolution’s eternally-delayed début album became a sailor’s tall tale for myth and mirth. A bit like the Yeti, Loch Ness Monster, tooth fairy or Bieber’s soul. Yet here it is. A mere (cough) six years after EST beauties like “Ultraviolence”, “Switchblade” and “CYOA” (“Choose Your Own Adventure”) threatened to hijack hearts and give ‘em a dose of Stockholm Syndrome. The goodship Ride or Die—long believed lost at sea—arrives on the stranger shores of 2014 out of step, out of time. A curiosity from another dimension perhaps but damn Sam, surprisingly fresh.
In genuine Guerilla style the album is bookended by a pair of ‘twist the dial, find the frequency’ covert handshake hook-ups that allow us to slip-in/out of our dayglo duo’s secret society. A wail of sirens and Morse code pulses fade beneath that familiar ice cream tinkle. “You can take what you want but you won’t get it from me!” spits Lead Sista Leyla ‘Lo’ Safai over the ‘Godzilla on drums—Godzuki on decks’ tremor of the titular opener. Rabid, raucous and ripe with electrified “IT’S ALIVE!” joie de vivre. Like much of the record it’s Manga Mayhem with a Run DMC kick—or as the band themselves prefer “A punk rock version of Sesame Street”. A clarion call to arms with smokin’ sticks of “Die! No! Might!” burnin’ from your “Raydee-yo-Yo-YO”.

Having been strapped-up in the laboratory for six years it’s no surprise to discover Ride or Die pretty much favours this feral, hyperactive intensity. The dominant sound being a Holy trinity cocktail of electro, glam rock and ‘60s girl groups. Chaos theory. Recent single “KISS” finds the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” both shaken and stirred. A tormented teen confessional of broken-hearts with boombox bounce whose diary entry ends “Sooner or later I’m gonna let you down” more with liberation than loss. Later the wonderfully bawdy “Brillianteen” strolls into town like Cher / Nancy Sinatra’s brooding “Bang Bang” before unveiling its true intentions as a Titanium Electro Assassin. Heartsrevolution, unsurprisingly, are no fans of today’s E! News celebrity addiction. A red mist of expletives, righteous rage and stinging smackdowns rain down. “You tried to make me feel invisible! Motherfuckers! You got a ping pong pussy like a son of a bitch!” It is ‘Punk’, it is ‘Daft’ but also ‘Quite thrilling’. Yes, some may stifle a giggle when Lo cries “The world is in d-d-danger! I’m here to save ya” like a suburban superhero but fuck it let’s go. At its rainbow heart Ride or Die is a bright, shiny pop record. The dizzy rollerskating jam “Kishi Kaisei” could be a Ke$ha single. Its earworm playground chorus, ‘80s surfin’ synth riff and “Screw it” embrace is an irresistible tickle n’ tease to take a run at the sun and let the good times roll. Lady Lazarus is wide awake and we’re wasting light. 

But why make ten louder when “Kill Your Radio” and “Vertigo” can turn things up to eleven? The Peaches-esque rampaging “Radio” dices AC/DC assault across hip-hop chops with Lo—as pretty in pink Patty Hearst—rallying her troops to rise up and seize control of the state. “KILL! YOUR! RADIO!” it commands whilst feverishly resplicing the machismo of metal with a punching, pop pogo of candy hearts and pastel balaclavas. “Vertigo” meanwhile is an 18-wheeler driven through the city gates on the way to the disco at the end of the universe. Picture Joan Jett tearing up Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” whilst chewing gum and trashtalking, “Fuck you and your whack ass crew! / Best put on your running shoes I’m coming to get you.” Laugh out loud ridiculous f’sure but as a wise pirate with a white stripe mask once noted “Ridicule is nothing to be scared of.”

Ride’s home stretch finds our dynamic duo’s pink skies overcast as the ice cream van crosses the dark side of the street. “Digital Suicide”, the soul survivor from their juvenilia, is a halcyon glider. Light on beats, high on wistfulness. Its childlike contentment and glass menagerie melody rippling with omens of bad moons rising, “Sonic Youth with sonic dreams / Suicidal tendencies.” The theatrical, thunderous “Heart vs. The Machine” is a reanimated relation of Radiohead’s “Fitter Happier”. A ladytron ghost in the machine beaming an SOS to future generations, “It was all lies! / Destroy the machine!” There’s menace too on “Heaven’s Gate”, though it fails to truly soar preferring to smoulder intensely on the launchpad. “Generation Wh(Y)” is the most troubled soul though. A shadowy, disembodied drifter with a faint bizarre resemblance Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight”. When Lo chastises her useless generation with a confused “Why won’t you stand and fight with me?”, it provides the album’s most chilling, desolate moment. It’s these bruised reflections that humanise the cartoon. But Heartsrevolution are clearly lovers not fighters choosing to offer a parting kiss with the positive peace-out of “Final Destination” and its sage tagline “You can never get your soul back.”

It’s fitting that the long-delayed Ride or Die ends with the salute of allegiance, “Sincerely, Heartsrevolution”. Though many may balk at its childlike idealism and “KAPOW!” comic book capers it’s a passionate, spirited and refreshingly sincere record. It rings true. A lot of heart with a mischievous flicker of revolution behind the eyes. Was it worth a six-year wait? Hell no, but how can anyone not admire a band who spent two of those years gluing one million Swarovski crystals onto their own ice cream truck? Dedication and devotion comrades.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/180825-heartsrevolution-ride-or-die/