[27 September 2006]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
The best “disposable” party albums do such a good job at conjuring up a sense of irreverent, anything-goes fun that they transcend their original purpose. From Tom Tom Club’s self-titled debut to Happy Mondays’ Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches to Gorillaz’ Demon Days, they do such a good job of sounding disposable that they become, ironically, anything but.
That’s the ideal that Urban Delights are going for on debut album Revolution No. 1. And the two members’ résumés look good: Malte Hagemeister has written for super-DJ Timo Mass and pop group Sugababes, while Harry K. had a share of danceable success as a member of Apollo 440. Hearing Hagemeister and Harry K. go for broke with samplers, synths, and guitars should be a good time. And about a third of the time, it is. The rest of the time it’s like Michael Hutchence hadn’t died and INXS (the band, not the reality show mercenaries) were still making albums in the vein of their ‘90s work. Bad albums, in other words.
Or, you can look at it this way: Sooner or later, something was going to come along to make Duran Duran’s 2004 comeback album Astronaut sound ahead of its time. Well, maybe it wasn’t exactly inevitable, but that’s exactly what the majority of Revolution No. 1 does. The pseudo-funk guitar and falsetto vocals (by either Hagemeister or Harry K. themselves) on “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” make you long for the more “authentic” sounds of Andy Taylor and Simon LeBon. Don’t even mention the likely original influence behind that and the similarly awful “Live Less Ordinary”, a certain Prince.
Throughout Revolution No. 1, analog synths zoom and hiss while processed guitars and thick programmed beats rock along. It all makes for a production-heavy sense of chaos, and it’s probably what Urban Delights wanted. When it works, it works. When Harry K. sasses “We’ve seen the future” on the nifty jump jazz opener, you keep waiting for him to add, “…We can’t afford it” (that’s ABC’s equally sassy ‘80s classic “How to Be a Millionaire” for those of you born after 1978). The typically inane lyric “It’s just too much! / I feel a crush! / I need your touch!” is delivered with the right amount of tongue-in-cheek enthusiasm on garage rocker “Crush”, while “Y U Cum 2 the Party” is like the Stones discovering electroclash—and is a lot better than that proposition might seem.
So what’s wrong with this party, you ask? Most of the time, Urban Delights’ ‘80s-leaning approach falls flat. “Way It’s Gonna Be” has a snappy chorus, but too many songs are just production ideas in search of decent melodies. Forays into hip-hop (the title track) and glam (“Rock With Me”) are just lame. And this is also a party that Hagemeister and Harry K. have arrived late to, with the likes of Clor, the Infadels, and even Blur having done the synth/garage thing with more satisfying results. If “Crazy Beat” is your favorite track off Think Tank, you just might dig this. But, in the end, “disposable” albums that fail to transcend their own disposability meet up with the same fate—the secondhand bins. Or worse.