Review Summary: Yes, the songs are good. They were good when everyone first heard them back in August ’07.
Black Kids are the latest in a long line of “next-big-thing” bands trumpeted by musical tastemakers such as NME and Pitchfork, with their EP Wizard of Ahhs featured on numerous “Best New Music” lists. Copping heavily from the ‘80s, with a vocalist in the best Robert Smith tradition, and a deep bag of sugary melodies at their disposal, Black Kids seemed to have all the ingredients to make it big in the indie world. Hell, they’re even from (Jacksonville!!!) Florida, and I have to give them credit for escaping that cultural black hole.
But as many bands do when the bullet train of Internet publicity hits them, smart decisions and good artistic choices tend to go out the window (see: Some Loud Thunder) in favor of cashing in on the hype. And so we have Partie Traumatic, Black Kids’ debut album released almost a year after their EP but consisting of no less than four songs (all of them, in other words) from that record. That’s 40% of this disc of “new” material. Sure, they’ve been “re-recorded,” but honestly, everyone knows it’s the same ***ing song.
But wait, the songs are good, aren’t they? After all, didn’t Rolling Stone name Black Kids one of their “artists to watch” for 2008? Yes, the songs are good. They were good when everyone first heard them back in August ’07. Catchy and irrepressibly urgent, the tunes bounce along on cheap synths and singer Reggie Youngblood’s Cure-ish yearning yelp. “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You” is the best of these four, although “Hit The Heartbrakes” comes in at a close second. Both cash in on quirky, appealing choruses and playful boy-girl vocal interplay. The sexy cowbell on “Heartbrakes” doesn’t hurt, either.
Of the new songs, however, Black Kids doesn’t seem to live up to much of the hype. To begin with, all of the songs sound pretty much the same to those on the EP, all four-on-the-floor beats and squeaky keyboards. Songs like “Listen To Your Body Tonight” and the title track seem practically interchangeable with the four from the EP, with only slight distinctions, such as a slightly more obnoxious synthesizer line than usual, to separate them from the pack.
Unfortunately, Partie Traumatic tends to coast along on cruise control for the majority of the album. Youngblood’s voice goes from cute to tolerable to annoying by the middle of the album. That same goddamn ‘80s synth pops up in nearly every song, and virtually every song skips along at the same vaguely dance-y tempo. And the lyrics are ridiculously inane, from “my girl’s been a real whore / spending her time with Theodore” on “Love Me Already” to the unbelievable line “cuz it’s so sticky in the Dirty South / it’s hot as balls” on “Hit The Heartbrakes.” Much like Youngblood’s voice, the youthful charm quickly wears off with repetition.
At the end of the day, what Black Kids have offered up is a serviceable indie pop album that does present a number of viable singles and a glimpse at actual talent buried under a cloying affection for the ‘80s. One can only hope they survive long enough in the oversaturated world of Internet hype long enough to realize it.