New Politics – A Bad Girl in Harlem album review

Argh, what a demanding album. With me, that doesn’t even necessarily have to be a bad thing, but in this case it is because this album demands a lot but doesn’t really have all that much by way of payoff. I mean, you can tell just by looking at the cover that these guys really want this album to be a great time, and if that wasn’t proof enough for you, the day-glow synthesizers, constantly fast pace, and feel-good vocals will do the trick, even though the lyrics tell tales of dysfunction and occasionally despair (see “Goodbye Copenhagen,” which isn’t exactly the Smiths as far as sprightly mope-a-longs go, and “Fall Into These Arms”) because hey, irony’s what the cool kids do anymore, right? And you’ll dance along and shout along and at the appropriate moments laugh along and it’ll be a great, great time for all, right? And hey, I’m not in it to ruin anyone’s good time, but I’m just plain not feeling it. It’s the sort of thing I could definitely see other people enjoying, but for me, it’s almost taxing.

I guess the big problem here is that, for all the big sparkly presentation – the crystal-clear production, the sunny melodies, the breezy tempos, the glistening synthesizers on songs like “Tonight You’re Perfect” and “Goodbye Copenhagen” – the songs themselves are pretty thoroughly forgettable. This renders the whole affair quite frustrating for me, as do all of the attention-getting gimmicks themselves, like the echoing vocals on “Tonight You’re Perfect,” the cheerleader chants on “Harlem,” and the club synthesizers on “Berlin” (which almost pulls off jangly guitars in places and has a cool dissonant bridge). All they really do, at least to me, is call attention to the fact to how forgettable the songs themselves are. This isn’t like Arcade Fire, where the bombast adds to the emotional experience. It just sort of drags things down.

They really pull it off once here, though, and that’s with “Stuck on You.” An aching ballad isn’t exactly the sort of thing you’d expect from such an album, and while it’s just as fluffy as everything else is here, it’s at least emotionally resonant fluff, with a pretty good vocal, a good beat, and a pretty violin line. It’s just as over the top as everything else here, but since it’s got a little more weight than the rest, it comes off a little better. And I do like parts of the above-mentioned “Berlin,” while “Give Me Hope” is kind of fun up until the embarrassing rap, which even then isn’t as embarrassing as the rap on “Overcome”). Maybe next time around, they’ll give us more of “Stuck on You” and less of the annoying Muse knock-off “Die Together.” But until then, I can’t really call myself a fan.

By Christopher William Schahfer

An English major from Detroit who's been writing about music for about ten years now. It's good stuff, I'm tellin' ya - great way to organize my opinions and thoughts and, more importantly, get to the bottom of why I think the way I do.

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