Music

You Say Party! We Say Die!: XXXX

Vancouver dance-punk troupe parties like its 2002.


You Say Party! We Say Die!

XXXX

Label: Paper Bag
US Release Date: 2010-02-09
UK Release Date: import only
Label Website
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

I’ll let you in a on a little secret: the title of You Say Party! We Say Die!’s new album is actually Love. In fact, the album’s track list (i.e. "Make XXXX") reads like a game of Mad Libs where the only acceptable word is “love”. As far as creative conceits go, it’s hardly inspired, but I’ll give them points for being cute. “Uninspired, but cute” is actually an accurate appraisal of YSP! WSD! as a whole. They haven’t matured a great deal beyond the early noughties’ new-wave/dance-punk movement that spawned them, and their most closely related peers have either called it quits (Pretty Girls Make Graves) or become painfully irrelevant (Hot Hot Heat).

The main reason XXXX succeeds is lead singer Becky Ninkovic. Her vocals lend the band’s music a sultry gravitas that elevates YSP! WSD! from charming retro band to something more sophisticated. Like Bat for Lashes’ Natasha Khan, Ninkovic’s voice has a breathless, melancholic quality that is enchanting. The excellent opener “There Is XXXX (Within My Heart)” echoes not only Bat for Lashes’ most recent work, but also dance-punk’s most resilient warhorses Les Savy Fav. Unfortunately, this alluring blend of Ninkovic’s quivering vulnerability and the band’s rhythmic muscularity is rarely achieved elsewhere on XXXX.

“Laura Palmer’s Prom” is the dazzling centerpiece of XXXX. Even without that title, the song would still conjure up Lynchian locales with its swoony synths that simply ooze Angelo Badalamenti. Bassist Stephen Shea sounds like Peter Hook caught smack dab between Joy Division and New Order -- gloomy drama giving way to new-wave bliss. For the duration of this song, Ninkovic personifies teenage romantic yearning. When she pleads “My heart needs a love dance,” you’d think she needed air or water. If it was 1983, this thing would be a massive hit.

“Glory” is an unabashed Ramones pastiche, but it works -- mainly because it’s not at all what I would expect from YSP! WSD! The song even sports a ‘60s garage-rock sheen courtesy of Krista Loewen’s organ work. The slow-burning “Heart of Gold” drips with ‘90s alt-rock nostalgia and feels every bit like a love letter to, of all things, The Cranberries. Again, it succeeds by virtue of surprise, and by being a lovely tune, of course. A few more detours like “Glory” and “Heart of Gold” could have made XXXX a more interesting album and YSP! WSD! a more interesting band.

Too much of XXXX is spent recycling tired dance-punk moves for it to succeed as a whole. Songs like “Dark Days” and “Cosmic Wanship Avengers” feel hollow and awkward. When the album does work as on “Laura Palmer’s Prom” and “There Is XXXX (Within My Heart)”, the band soars. In these moments, YSP! WSD! sound confident and vital, but confidence can only get you so far. I can’t shake the feeling that You Say Party! We Say Die! has an expiration date stamped on their collective ass. If they don’t evolve in some way soon, they’re doomed to end up on the scrap heap of the ‘00s.

6
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

The Texas Gentlemen Share the Powerful and Soulful "Last Call" (premiere)

Eclectic Texas band, the Texas Gentlemen return with a vibrant, imaginative LP that resists musical boundaries. Hear their latest epic single, "Last Call".

Music

Vincent Cross Pays Tribute to Folk Hero via "King Corcoran" (premiere)

Gangs of New York-era James "The Rooster" Corcoran was described as the terror of New York's east side. His descendent, Vincent Cross, retells his story with a "modern dark fairy tale".

Music

Eddy Lee Ryder Gets Lonely and Defiant with "Expected to Fly" (premiere)

Eddy Lee Ryder explores the loss of friendship and refusal to come of age, cloaked in the deeply dramatic and powerful song, "Expected to Fly".

Playlists

Rock 'n' Roll with Chinese Characteristics: Nirvana Behind the Great Wall

Like pretty much everywhere else in the pop music universe, China's developing rock scene changed after Nirvana. It's just that China's rockers didn't get the memo in 1991, nor would've known what to do with it, then.

Film

Creative Disruption in 'Portrait of a Lady on Fire'

Portrait of a Lady on Fire yearns to burn tyrannical gendered tradition to ash and remake it into something collaborative and egalitarian.

Music

Fave Five: The Naked and Famous

Following two members leaving the group in 2018, synthpop mavens the Naked and Famous are down to a duo for the first time ever and discuss the records they turned to help make their aptly-named fourth record, Recover.

Evan Sawdey
Books

Fleetwood Dissects the European Mindset in His Moody, Disturbing Thriller, 'A Young Fair God'

Hugh Fleetwood's difficult though absorbing A Young Fair God offers readers a look into the age-old world views that have established and perpetuated cultural rank and the social attitudes that continue to divide us wherever we may reside in the world.

Music

Art Feynman Creates Refreshing Worldbeat Pop on 'Half Price at 3:30'

On Half Price at 3:30, Art Feynman again proves himself adept at building colorful worlds from unexpected and well-placed aural flourishes.

Music

The Beths Are Sharp As Ever on 'Jump Rope Gazers'

New Zealand power-poppers the Beths return with a sophomore album that makes even the most senior indie-rock acts feel rudimentary by comparison.

Music

Jessie Ware Returns to Form on 'What's Your Pleasure'

On What's Your Pleasure, Jessie Ware returns to where it all began, the dance floor.

Music

The Jayhawks Offer Us Some 'XOXO'

The Jayhawks offer 12-plus songs on XOXO to help listeners who may be alone and scared by reminding us that we are all alone together.

Music

Steve McDonald Remembers the Earliest Days of Redd Kross

Steve McDonald talks about the year that produced the first Redd Kross EP, an early eighth-grade graduation show with a then-unknown Black Flag, and a punk scene that welcomed and defined him.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.