[4 June 2014]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Casper & the Cookies have been knocking out jittery indie-pop records for a while now, but Dingbats may be the band at its most cut free. The album explores a variety of pop structures and textures, yet the overall effect feels connected and, at its best, charming. The album kicks off with the crashing drums and ringing chords of arena-rocker “Improvvisamente Ardito”. It’s a perfectly wide-open place to start a record that moves through the cheeky dance-punk of “Drug Facts”, or the lean power-pop of “Jennifer’s House”, or the winking psych-rock of “Lemon Horses”. “Thing For Ugly” mixes some of these pieces to twist basic rock structures into a Devo-esque exercise in nervy pop. Meanwhile, “Sleep Defense” simplifies the formula late in the record to create the its most direct standout.
Dingbats is an impressive and satisfying exploration of pop in so many of its derivations. There are moments—see “Thing for Ugly”—where you might wonder what Casper & the Cookies really look like under some of this costumery, and parts of other songs (“Lemon Horses”, for example) lose some of their impact in their heavy irony. But overall, Dingbats is a confidently played and exciting pop record, aware enough and dynamic enough to explore without painting itself into some revivalist corner.