platters (2008-04)

The Kids Are All Right

Noisy, jazzy, or smarty-pants potty mouthâ"it doesnâ’t matter

Times New Viking Rip It Off (Matador) â“Letâ’s do something that hasnâ’t been done yet,â” Beth Murphy sings on â“Faces on Fire.â” Well, not exactly. Rip It Off sounds a lot like the first two Times New Viking albums: waterfalls of distortion, thumping drums, and half-buried sing-song choruses. It doesnâ’t quite have the tunes to match those records (Dig Yourself and Presents the Paisley Reich, get them now) but itâ’s plenty good.

At 16 songs in 33 minutes, it keeps the Columbus, Ohio, trio squarely in the realm of miniaturists. They can compress a two-verse, two-chorus pop song into the 1:04 of â“Drop-Outâ” or 1:36 of â“The Apt.â” But a few tracks, like â“Relevant: Nowâ” (an epic at 3:39), show some interest in almost raga-ish drone. Itâ’s a logical direction, given their sonic profile. Times New Viking specializes in sustained clamor, with guitarist Jared Phillips fuzz-boxing madly over Murphyâ’s synthesizer and drummer Adam Elliottâ’s whomps and crashes.

Murphy and Elliott sing separately and together in a simpatico deadpan that registers as simultaneously jaded and joyful. The lyrics (at least the ones I can hear) are similarly attuned: â“Everything that you know has been some accident,â” they sing on â“The Early â’80s,â” but it doesnâ’t sound like bad news. On the coda to â“(My Head)â” they declare, â“I need more money â’cause I need more drugs,â” and that doesnâ’t sound like bad news either. It just sounds like they want to keep the party going. (Jesse Fox Mayshark)

Dengue Fever Venus on Earth (M80) Dengue Feverâ"the band, anyway, if not the actual feverâ"is from Los Angeles, not Cambodia. The group does, however, have a Cambodian-American singer, Chhom Nimol, who delivers the bulk of her lyrics in Khmer, and they draw heavily on Cambodian pop from the 1960s, a collision of indigenous music and American garage rock (see the Cambodia Rocks compilation and Cambodian Cassette Archives). Thereâ’s nothing particularly authentic or genuinely exotic about what Dengue Fever doesâ"the style they appropriate was itself made up largely of appropriations and mash-upsâ"but wow, can they write some good pop songs. That Venus on Earth, their third album, recalls the cheap, fuzzy psychedelia of the aforementioned Cambodian anthologies (and whole chunks of the Ethiopiques series) is beside the point: the band cooks up a simmering, limber, languid jazz-rock with deep grooves, sophisticated melodies, and scorching instrumental displays, particularly from guitarist Zac Holtzman and his brother, keyboard player Ethan Holtzman. And Nimolâ’s voice, even in Khmer, is a wonder, a throwback to the girls groups of the â‘60s. But donâ’t pay attention to the nostalgia; Dengue Feverâ’s good right now. (Matthew Everett)

Kate Nash Made of Bricks (Interscope) Kate Nash, a 20-year-old London singer/songwriter, made her initial impressions, like Lilly Allen, through MySpace, and her breakthrough single, â“Foundations,â” is a brittle, sunny-sounding jingleâ"similar in tone and spirit to Allenâ’s kiss-off â“Smileâ”â"about a futile teenage romance that OMG! has the words â“bitchâ” and â“shitâ” in it. (Thereâ’s a sultry little number called â“Dickhead,â” too, and a synth-pop ditty called â“Shit Song.â”) But Nash isnâ’t really that similar to Allen at allâ"her piano-based songwriting leans toward rock and folk rather than radio dance-pop. Sheâ’s like a less studied Nellie McKay, or a public-school version of Alanis Morissette, 13 years on. She has a distinct proclivity for adolescent shock, but sheâ’s an engaging, if not overwhelming, singer, even if her affected Cockney accent has earned some criticism. She displays an ear for a hook (â“Skeleton Song,â” â“Foundationsâ”) and her lyrics are sometimes witty, minute observations, though they rarely add up to much (â“Youâ’ve gone and got sick on my trainers/I only got these yesterday/Oh, my gosh, I cannot be bothered with this,â” from â“Foundationsâ”). But she should be careful: Instant celebrity can be a bitch, especially when itâ’s bought with a smarty-pants potty mouth. (M.E.)


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