I was gorging myself on a late-night channel-surfing buffet last week when I stumbled upon a strange rock video on MTVU. The song was oddly late 1990s/early 2000s in style, with some skinny dudes hopping around on some NYC streets.
Turns out this band is called New Politics, and they’re apparently from Denmark. As unfortunately unremarkable as the band name is, their music would probably get the same reaction from most listeners.
What struck me during the video (for the song Dignity, which is included in the end of this review) was how much it reminded me of high school. Namely, it sounded like an amalgamation of every band I listened to during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Beastie Boy raps, generic rap/rock chord progressions, pseudo-angst bottled up in catchy verses and a Weezer-esque melodic chorus, it was all there.
Curiosity led me to seeking out the band’s recent debut album, released in June 2010.
The most descriptive thing I can say about the album is that it sounds like it’s a relic from a time capsule from 1999 that some high school kids put in the ground and dug up over the summer.
The album kicks off with Yeah Yeah Yeah, the “bouncy lead single” from the album. Its oh-so-familiar sounding main riff gives way to lead singer David Boyd’s angry (?) lyrics asking what you want from me, cuz you’re fucking killing me and so on. Everything about the song is extremely predictable, but it still manages to embed itself in your head, as I found myself humming it the next day at the store.
Dignity boasts the Weezerish tendencies, from the Beverly Hills verses to the sweeping Say It Ain’t So chorus, but the song is about angst and “giving guns to the children” or something. It’s quite energetic though, and also burrows itself in your head like a tapeworm in your stomach.
I attribute that quality of the record to the production used on the songs. Every song sounds crunchy and smooth, with the requisite acoustic strumming for the bridge (a trait that happens throughout the record) and perfect sound levels between the instruments and the vocals.
Nice job there, RCA Records.
The rest of the songs manage to touch on just about every aspect of the 1999-2003 era, such as Give Me Hope, with its driving synth and high-pitched vocals sounding like one of those “The” bands like the Vines/Hives/Strokes on too much Mountain Dew and Sour Patch Kids.
Love Is a Drug again hits Strokes territory, but also adds a bit of The Bravery’s grittiness, probably due to Boyd’s vocal effects, not including the sassy rap-rock tweaks they seem to insert into every song.
Listening to this whole album is quite an experience, since I find it really crazy to imagine that a major label like RCA helped conceptualize music like this in 2011. This stuff sounds like 2002 Warped Tour side stage material (specifically this song/band). I’d be shocked if this album or band really goes anywhere, since this sound is so outdated.
Nuclear War (ugh, more almost political references) includes a Linkin Park nod in the pre-chorus, leading into declarations of being the enemy and starting wars and whatever. Oh, and it also has acoustic strumming in the bridge.
Burn keeps the high energy going, throwing in some shouting, again getting caught up in vague political “let’s burn it down” lyrics. Sigh.
We Are the Radio talks about the nation being in fear and guns and war and stuff, and again it’s formulaic Rage Against the Machine-lite.
What kills me about this album is that I actually *like* its throwback to the late 1990s vibe. I’m unhealthily obsessed with my nostalgic music from middle and high school, so a band that manages to sound like all of the bands I listened to at once is somewhat appealing, but the bland, uninspired lyrics about starting wars (with who? The mall security guards? Math teachers? I’m confused) mixed with the “Rap-Rock 101” song structures just makes this thing a misfire.
It’s great music to listen to while at the gym, as I did today, but it’s not really good for much else. Had this come out in 2002 it would have been just as overlooked as I expect it to be today, in 2010-2011. It’s just too simplistic and unimaginative for its own good.
If the lads in New Politics were consciously aiming to sound like Rage, Weezer, Linkin Park, innumerable pop-punk and hard-rock radio bands and the Beastie Boys, then kudos to them for being spot-on with their efforts.
If not, then, well at least you made a nice high-budget music video or two with major-label money, right?