Historically speaking, Americans have often lagged behind the Brits in terms of musical ideas. Maybe it’s mainstream American culture in general that’s responsible – giant corporations (ie, Capitol Records in this case) typically finger their assholes until trends become cool enough to capitalize on before jumping on board, thus avoiding the investment of any real risk. Or perhaps it’s a lack of decent British orthodontists that forces the Brits to focus more so on creative endeavors than pure physical appearances alone to get laid with.
While I don’t know the real reasons behind the phenomenon – or much of anything for that matter – I do know this: The Postelles, a fully calculated and predictable group of New York charter school kids with trust funds and phone books as extensively fashionable as their wardrobes, have released the most formulaic, artistically void, and outdated take on modern brit-pop that I’ve ever heard.
Produced by fellow trust-fund scenester Albert Hammond Jr. of the Strokes, The Postelles’ White Night EP kicks off with the similarly named single “White Night.” While the song is undoubtedly catchy as hell, it sounds as if it’s just a Luke Prichard of The Kooks vocal track placed on top of a b-side from Is This It. Replete with Albert Hammond Jr.-esqe bright and chimey stabs of guitar, warm and hooky bass lines, and driving mid-tempo drums, the song is preposterously dialed-in and radio ready. Make no mistake: this is a pop tune through and through.
“I’ve got a problem and it drains my soul/Don’t tell, nobody knows,” belts lead singer Daniel Balk in a pseudo British accent to introduce the chorus. Well, if the problem is sounding terribly boring, then I’m afraid it’s painfully obvious. But unfortunately enough, like “Sex on Fire,” this is the type of shit that’s bound to bombard radio airwaves and Lower East Side pool parties all summer long.
With nothing much to say besides “Tell me what to do/I wanna feel ok,” Balk resorts to a medley of “whoas,” “oh-ohs,” and background vocals in an attempt to ostensibly distract from his vapid lyrics; it’s as if he’s holding a bunch of pretty bright objects in front of a baby.
But it gets worse: “I’m a systematic automatic city really dizzy track” rivals Bare Naked Ladies for worst string-of-shit-rapidly-sung-in-a-verse award.
The next track, “Sleep On The Dance Floor,” further showcases Balk’s impressive Prichard impersonations. Beginning with a slightly modulated guitar line, the song slowly eases into a feel good sing-along all too reminiscent of Razorlight’s worst moments (which can be downright awful). “Don’t you come around knockin’ on my door ‘cuz I fell asleep on the dance floor,” professes Balk. Well, Danny boy, let’s hope I don’t hear this one out or that’ll make two of us.
The third and final track, “Looking Glass,” moderately redeems the prior 5:41 of the EP, if only for its playful Motown tendencies and words of encouragement: “Let’s make a toast to self control,” shouts Balk. Whereas this EP is littered with annoyingly catchy hooks and feel-good major key progressions, I’ll surely try my best to stay away – thanks for the reminder.
The problem isn’t that The Postelles don’t know what they want — that’s quite the opposite. They know exactly how they want to sound. The problem is, however, that while they’ve perfectly achieved their aim, the result is one that should have been avoided in the first place; a lot has happened since Is This It and the Kooks’ Inside In, Inside Out, and as a result, The Postelles just sound dated. Hopefully they’ll wise up and visit their more inventive neighboring borough to reform their sound. If not, look out for the debut album in bargain bins everywhere.
Kevin Duffel is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Transworld and Astory Magazines. His musings and reviews can also be found in Huck magazine, lifelounge.com, and seriousstache.com from time to time. You can catch more of his rants and handsome, white guy problems here.