Paradise Boys: The Young & The Guest List

[26 September 2005]

By Daniel Rivera

I suppose movements and inclusive trends within the medium of music are never really dead. Hipsters and elitists, such as myself, like to believe that they are. We jump at the chance to be the first to proclaim the forecasted passing of time, all the while shouting from the gray hills above the landscape that we knew about the poisoned water long before you did. It’s really second nature at this point. Then, in the second act, comes the inevitable revival. Finally, in all predictability and fabricated altruism (not to mention a well-established proclivity towards brazen egotism) the cycle perpetuates. For all the clamoring we make for something different to come along, we sure like to keep the status quo. As the mantra goes: In with the static, out with the fluidity. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The last rattles of the dance punk movement, which then gave way to the recent ‘80s retro clusterfuck, were inherent in the nature of the fad itself. The rule is, something can only remain cool long enough for someone else to tell you about it. With it’s flamboyant and fuck-all nature of indie exclusivity, one could make the claim that disco punk died the moment the ink dried on the Rapture’s Universal contract. However, I’m not going to do that. There is no death in music. Dance punk is not dead. Rock never even died. Hip Hop is not dormant. Hell, you can still find people who go see Ska bands. A sub-genre is only as strong as it’s life’s blood. Fortunately, with their growing popularity, Frisco scenesters Paradise Boys seem to have plenty of blood to bleed. But is it enough?

Paradise Boys debut LP, The Young & the Guest List, is a deceptively simple romp that blends juiced-up synth bits with a playful urgency that then leads you to a distinct dexterity that is only as impressive as it is depraved. Their intentionally debaucherous persona is an unfortunate footnote in a delivery that is otherwise rather straightforward. It becomes clear fairly early on that Paradise Boys and their reoccurring identity theft is far more about the show than the tell—and, for some reason, you forgive them.

Perhaps it’s that their metro approach to sensuality isn’t nearly as annoying as it is with the Faint. Maybe it’s that their pseudo-sexual ambiguity, rather than taking center stage, remains somewhere in the shadows, merely adding an extra level of hapless enigma. The presence of female members is actually…oddly unexpected. It hardly matters. What makes The Young & the Guest List such a compelling work is that, due to its masterful focus, the largely infectious collection of inspired analog loops and hook-laced percussion is always able to remain the center of attention.

The album has the kind of control where, at a glance, it actually appears to have none. Producer Jonah Sharp seems to have a fundamental understanding of the group’s strengths. Nothing can be too polished here, or it would all just fall apart. But, play it too dirty and it will come off as phony. A balance is needed to be reached between the raucous and the delicate. On The Young & the Guest List that balance is reached in a decidedly organic way, elevating the work to a level of that much more effectiveness. It all comes together very seamlessly, never losing an ounce of its jocularity. Sure, it’s really just a dance record, but that doesn’t stop people from hurling praise in James Murphy’s general direction.

It would seem, that after the rise, and pending fall of bands like the Faint, the Rapture, and their ilk, Paradise Boys have a bit of a rocky road ahead. And let’s be honest…it’s partly our fault. Our never-ending need to be on the cutting edge of “criticism”, our downright unhealthy love for the ending of eras. It’s us. We kill groups like Paradise Boys. We kill them because we think that it’s them or us. The tragedy is that Paradise Boys (“Out of the Races and on to the Tracks” excluded) are, pretty much, better than all of the other groups associated with the dance punk movement. They have what would appear to be endless potential, as well as a far better understanding of themselves and their place within the medium than you would ever expect. There is such a healthy self-awareness all throughout The Young & the Guest List that never seems to come off as snotty, which is a very rare thing. Realistically, this will probably end up being the most underrated album of the year. I think we all owe Paradise Boys an apology.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/paradiseboys-young/