Junior Boys/The Knife: They Suck
You heard me.
I hate this shit. Fuck The Knife, fuck Pitchfork, fuck Junior Boys, and fuck anyone who thinks any kind of electro takeover with whiny, breathy effeminates exporting synth pinpricks from FruityLoops 6 to webwide acclaim is Progress. Since when did retro start to mean retrogress? I love the 80s as much as anyone, not to mention whiny, breathy effeminates, but wearing retarded bird masks is no excuse for whispery, banal-basic synth death that 4AD, Stephin Merritt, and Devendra Banhart would call wussy. Music doesn't have to have force to be good, but especially when we're dealing with electronics, forward motion is a must. Take the Knife's "Silent Shout" for instance, the opener from their egregiously overacclaimed record of the same name (Pitchfork's #1 of 2006). All "Baba O'Riley" and "Safety Dance" octave play, no substance, then, oh god, those voices. Bjork is warmer, and by comparison, meaningful, and her next album's guest list reads like a parody (some noise from column A, hmmm....Lightning Bolt, now some Timbaland, and can we get the Tuvan throat guy again?). Plus Vespertine's a stronger record than Silent Shout or So This Is Goodbye will ever be, namely that it doesn't sacrifice colors and tones for a "minimalist" tune record (Medulla, however, does). But Bjork has something resembling a vision, whereas the Junior Boys are on some New Romantic bullshit that even seems exploitative when Jonathan Richman does it. The Knife at least has a few tunes that don't bother me; "Neverland"'s a scorching synth-nightmare with tense repetition that suggests Imogen Heap covering Ministry's "Stigmata." Junior Boys are nearly unlistenable for those Xiu Xiu inflections though. Even when they develop a groove out of their simple parts, they collapse it immediately with sap, sap, sap. So for the most part, these high-concept artsies (dig those beak masks) don't have the tune sense to bring Depeche Mode back from their hookless graves. Try The Blow's transcendent Paper Television if you need to satisfy a craving for minimal bleeps-and-bloops electro with actual heartfelt tunes. They even have wit; the showstopping "True Affection" recalls The Pipettes, and here's the punchline, the techno ladies aren't even colder.
The Knife - Silent Shout: B-
Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye: C
The Blow - Paper Television: B+