Florida – land of sunshine, dodgy election results and The Golden Girls. And now, we can add to that list, bands who so quickly garner acres of blog coverage that they end up in the invidious position of experiencing a backlash before they’ve even released their debut album.
Black Kids first leapt onto the radar in the middle of last year when an EP of demos entitled Wizards Of Aaah was made available to download for free on their website. It soon attracted the attention of various taste-making websites and blogs, and soon the band found themselves in the studio with Bernard Butler, being covered by Kate Nash and on influential ‘ones to watch’ polls from the BBC and Rolling Stone.
Of course, the trouble with hype is that you’re bound to also create unnecessary expectations. So, while Partie Traumatic may not be the best debut album ever made, it’s far from the disappointment that some rather jaded and cynical early reviews have already made out.
For all those who downloaded Wizards Of Aaah, there won’t be many surprises here. All the tracks from that EP have survived here (albeit in re-recorded format), with only the title track, I’ve Been Making Eyes At You and Look At Me (While I Rock Wichoo) likely to have remained unheard by the band’s hardcore fans. Yet Butler has done an excellent job in making all these songs sound fresh and exciting, cementing his position as one of the best producers working today.
They’ve been described countless times as ‘The Cure meets Arcade Fire‘, and while lead singer Reggie Youngblood does sound a deadringer for Robert Smith, and they do share the Canuck’s knack for a melody, a more relevant comparison is probably Franz Ferdinand. After all, it was the literate Scots who promised to make ‘songs for girls to dance to’ and if there’s one thing that Black Kids know how to do, it’s make people dance.
As the title may suggest, Partie Traumatic is filled with catchy, euphoric party tunes, with a slightly sad edge to them. Almost every song is guaranteed to fill any self-respecting indie dancefloor, but there’s also an intelligence and wit far removed from most ‘stadium-indie’ bands.
Take a listen to I’ve Underestimated My Charm Again for example, which may on the surface be a song about Youngblood bemoaning the dangers of an affair with a married woman, but also manages to throw in a Sparks reference in its opening line. Hit The Heartbrakes audaciously begins with a nonsensical Knock Knock joke, before giving the brush off to a potential paramour (“there ain’t no way that I’m gonna meet your mother, your father, your dog or your brother, your nephew and niece, girl, I just can’t be bothered”).
Credit too should go to Youngblood’s sister Alison and Dawn Watley who throw in Go! Team style backing vocals and infuse each track with a sense of energy that proves very infectious. It’s that energy and spark that makes the album such an addictive listen – the coda at the end of Love Me Already, the singalong chants of I Wanna Be Your Limousine, and the synth-pop fizz of Listen To Your Body all being definite highlights.
Like all good pop, there’s also an underlying melancholy, making you feel happy and sad at the same time. Hurricane Jane has a blissful chorus of “it’s Friday night and I ain’t got nobody” while I Ain’t Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You is possibly the most joyous song about an unattainable girl you’ll ever hear.
Admittedly, at times it feels slightly rushed, as if their label realised they had a hot property on their hands and just had to get their album out, but with songs as good as these, that hardly seems to matter. Pay no attention to the hype – after all, it didn’t do Vampire Weekend any harm – and sit back and listen to one of the most purely enjoyable albums of this year.