Review Summary: i’m having a mother****ing party at my mother****ing house.
It’s become a cliché at this point to say that x amount of years is a lifetime in the music industry, but it’s often pointed out with good intentions. It’s been a long time since a band like the Arctic Monkeys or Black Kids could gain traction in the press from a few demos and a Myspace
page – let alone succeed in that social context. Now, with the digital frontier going full Wild West and an entirely new world to deal with, Black Kids (allegedly) long-awaited sophomore album has more challenges ahead of it than ever. Of course, Rookie
decides to deal with these challenges by running to its room, flicking on all of its lava lamps and deliriously dancing itself into a state of blatant ignorance, with a fresher type of vapid dance-pop.
Of course, Black Kids’ idea of fresher
is transitioning from the piercing synths and dry guitar tones of 2008’s brand of indie rock, to throwing a few chorus effects on the guitar and letting keyboard notes actually sound like keyboard notes instead of drill machines. Despite not really bothering to buck trends, occasionally they pull off a good song. Opener "IFFY" and the title track work around deliciously funky guitar riffs, and obvious sing-along choruses with obvious nightclub-vibe backing tracks to go with them don’t detract from the ability to start a few heads bobbing. Of course, this goodwill is tempered by using the excuse of “throwback” when tracks like "In a Song" sound like they’ve come out of your local high school time capsule. It also doesn’t help that, while vocalist Reggie Youngblood has undoubtedly improved his ability over the years, his voice and accent don’t seem to suit the material he’s working with. It seems he sounded better in the off-key wavering in old hit “Hit the Heartbrakes,” than trying to rip off Alex Turner in album closer "Way Into Leather." In any case, the band is competent enough to make a song work, but there’s not much soul to the product.
Youngblood is undoubtedly the polarising figure that makes or breaks most of the Black Kids repertoire, and after nine years one would expect him to have something new to say – or at least put enough effort into a variation of the same thing. However, throughout the album Youngblood employs meta references that sound tired rather than invigorating, and seemingly random choices in songwriting. Youngblood wants love love love, and you will know he wants it by how much he brings it up, over and over and over ad infinitum. Bad love? Good love? Questionable love? Swear-worthy love? Weirdly spiteful “I’m not a kid anymore” love? Doesn’t matter to him, because it’s all he seems to care about, even going so far as to complain he “hates to tell you in a song that I love you.” Apparently he doesn’t hate it enough to not do it, but that doesn’t matter, because it’s love.
Repetition of theme isn't an offence. What's less tolerable is the amount of repetition in the lyrics - arguably the biggest offender of the album. This isn’t persistent in the first half, because songs like "If My Heart’s Not Broken" bother to fit more than six lines into the two verses they have before running into the weirdly Jet-sounding chorus and bridge. "Natural Born Kissers", meanwhile, wastes an infuriatingly good pun on an infuriatingly terrible early-Calvin Harris club beat and infuriating repetition of four infuriatingly basic lines.
Thinking about your love
Thinking about your kisses
Thinking about your mouth
I wanna give you something back
This goes for four minutes. Is this the best we can do?
Lyrical juvenilia is not a new concept from the band that once sang “Call the ghost in your underwear boo,” but this time around, it’s not particularly compelling juvenilia. There’s a difference between being effortless and less effort, and that difference lies in the nine years between Black Kids’ albums. We’ve replaced the cheekiness of asserting “I’m not teaching your boyfriend to dance with you” to brag-rapping about obligatory drugs, bringing up the words “fall in love” too many times and illin’ on girls, whatever that
***ing means. What’s worse is that these types of tracks are blatantly sequenced towards the second half, and the noticeable gap in quality – in an album that is already noticeably weak at the front anyway – brings the album further downwards as a whole.
, I guess, is meant to be an ironic title for Black Kids’ second album, given how long they’ve spent as a band together and how the title track explicitly states “I’m not a rookie anymore.” It’s also actually not very ironic, as it is the kind of album you would
expect from the rookie adolescent band that Black Kids were nine years ago. It’s a cliché, but nine years is a lifetime. The call-and-answer vocals and basic chords that once made Black Kids appealing are now in the past. Apparently that doesn’t matter to a band that expects to play an old dog with two new tricks and get away with it.
It should matter.