Review Summary: Just like you like me like everybody else.
Let me gather my thoughts here, 'cos there's few to be found on A Bad Girl in Harlem
, the sophomorically sophomore modern-rock feel-good album from Danish band New Politics. All style and no substance, the album features such novelties as the saccharine "Tonight You're Perfect" and uproarious "Harlem", which both made the rounds on rock/pop radio stations the past couple years but don't actually say anything.
This album is more pop than than the band's eponymous debut, a hard rocking tribute to 90s alt rock that seemed to emulate more than acclimate. Every song has its guitars toned down and synthesized keyboards thrown in to make the album as a whole more radio friendly, with songs like lead-off "Tonight You're Perfect", "Stuck On You", and "Give Me Hope" (itself a less intense cover of "Give Me Hope" from their first album) playing to the vanilla-loving mass market. Others, notably "Die Together" and "Just Like Me" continue the band's schtick of posing as their heroes from the 90s with cheesy lyrics and hard rock outbursts, although the producers keep their sound firmly within acceptable radio standards.
But one of the most startling new influences on this young band is mid-2000s era indie pop, with "Overcome" and "Fall Into These Arms" being the most blatant offenders. Especially in the latter, you can picture the plaid-clad angel-headed hipsters texting into their cellphones while feigning interest in the group's show the second you hear the cheap synth bass kick in on the first verse. Lead single "Harlem", though brief, incorporates the same sentiment, glorifying young idiocy, doing relatively harmless drugs with your friends, and listening to loud music with all the usual tropes (see: every lyric). Much like their indie pop predecessors (sorry boys, you're too late for this scene too), their songs use hooks like one-liners to make you think they're more clever than they really are.
But somehow I can't help but feel that the guys in New Politics know what they're doing. This album continues the band's embodiment of the post-modern ethos: definition through association, the segregation of signifier from signified, and, above all, the sovereignty of subjectivity. And herein lies the rub, for the songs themselves—unoriginality unconsidered and pop trash put aside—aren't that bad. They're put together such that they're pleasant enough to listen to, and only when you ignore your history and preconceptions does the music "click" into place. In this sense, A Bad Girl in Harlem
can be seen as an unintended(") satire, an exercise in cultural introspection. And depending how far out on that limb you go, it makes these tunes sound that much sweeter.
Hey, a guy can hope.