Boy Kill Boy: Civilian

Have you had enough of '80s new wave yet? No? Well, then, Boy Kill Boy may have just the catchy hooks to tide you over until the new Killers album drops.

Boy Kill Boy


Label: Island
US Release Date: 2006-07-25
UK Release Date: 2006-05-22

I'm sorry but yes, I'm self-diagnosed: beginning to suffer from '80s revival burnout. You may have noticed but the Cure, Duran Duran, Gang of Four have magically transformed into Franz Ferdinand, the Killers, Editors, the Bravery, etc, etc, etc, etc. Have you had enough yet? No? Well, then, Boy Kill Boy may have just the catchy hooks to tide you over until the new Killers album drops.

Wow, that sounded caustic. The truth is, Civilian ain't that bad. It's a confident and stylish debut by a band that is cautiously pushing towards the more orchestral, stadium rock end of the new wave pack. But from a dancefloor perspective, Boy Kill Boy's synthpop isn't hard-edged enough to be in vogue any more; and from a soaring rock perspective they're far from Muse's heavy-handed histrionics. And I know it's far from fashionable to say anything positive about the Killers these days, but at least they're showing some signs of changing focus with "When You Were Young", and let's face it, their debut had a bunch of really catchy tunes.

Boy Kill Boy's producer John Cornfield's worked with Muse, actually, and the influence comes through not so much in the sound as in the harmonic and orchestral arrangements of the songwriting. It's there from the first song -- "Back Again", which comes across as a combination of Franz Ferdinand's droll vocals and Muse's over-the-top idolization of the hook, all wrapped up into a catchy radio single.

It's Boy Kill Boy's catchiness that is ultimately disappointing. To explain: the band chases hooks wildly, without a thought of development or innovation. This music is all shiny surface, appealing on the surface, but with no heart. It almost comes across a marketing project, an experiment in how can to sell more records. From this perspective, "On and On" is one of the only comment-worthy cuts on the whole album because it takes a chance, on the chorus, with an unexpected chord change. Even after repeat listens, the shift sounds out of place, but this ultimately works to the song's advantage: elsewhere on the album, things become a little predictable.

It's no surprise the singles or soon-to-be released as singles cuts are the finest examples of Boy Kill Boy's orchestral new wave appeal. "Suzie" is perhaps the most Franz Ferdinand-like of the songs, but it turns out a pretty and unexpected chorus "countdown to the disappointment" that is Interpol-smooth and easy to sing along to. "Civil Sin", more dance-punk, has the same punk chorus as Good Mourning vintage Alkaline Trio.

About the time we get to the fourth track, "Six Minutes", though, it falls into focus that this is a band that writes by formula -- rising chorus, a few yelps over the top for added effect: as the album progresses, repetition mounts, and appeal fades fast. Civilian's not too subtle, nor is subtlety its concern; but more than halfway through 2006 we need something extra to really hold our attention to this tiring revival.

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