Rhythm & Views

The Long Blondes

The Long Blondes
Couples (Rough Trade)

It's consistent with the post-postmodern moment that everything on the latest Long Blondes album reminds one of something else. It's like the arch referentiality of a Family Guy episode filtered through a dance party co-deejayed by Justine Frischmann and Vince Clarke.

However, Couples is not as all over the map in its musical reference points than 2006's Someone to Drive You Home, essentially dropping the "riot grrrl-group" sound that fueled that album and adopting a more polished aesthetic. Couples is a clubbier record, though with a raucous punk flavor.

Lyrically, the band describes a world firmly rooted in mid-20s hipster angst. Kate Jackson crafts herself as a kind of art-school chanteuse who relishes two things above all others: (1) telling off boys and (2) describing her own irresistibility. On "Guilt," she refuses to cheat on her boyfriend with an insistent suitor, and later takes a two-timing boyfriend to task on "Too Clever by Half." "The Couples" is a playgirl's lament in which Jackson complains about the travails of the single life, namely being lusted after by all the boys and viewed with suspicion and disdain by all the girls. But the flat narcissism of the Long Blondes is a large part of their appeal.

The record works best in its most egregiously shallow moments: as the soundtrack to vapid but glamorous thrill-seeking, or a sing-along for relationships with a seventh-grade level of emotional complexity. Though its dance-pop momentum falters a bit in the second half, Couples offers a tasty slice of shopping mall agit-pop.

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