30 mar. 2012

Phenomenal Handclap Band: Form & Control

Vuelven los 80´s


Review
by Hal Horowitz
Push play on the oddly named N.Y.C.-based Phenomenal Handclap Band's sophomore release and be transported back to the early-'80s dance-art-pop glory days of the Human League, OMD, and Heaven 17, among many others. The bass bounces, the knowingly dated synths buzz and whirl, and the male/female vocals sing with icy yet sexy detachment. Real (not synthesized) drums, guitars, and bass slather it all with a refreshingly organic buzz that doesn't seem retro as much as honest and full-bodied, if not exactly emotional. Surprises abound, such as the near-classical solo piano that closes "The Right One." Even though there is no escaping the creeping strains of disco, the songs exude singalong melodies and bubbling bass that, somewhat like Blondie, keeps the tracks vibrant, alive, and lyrically compelling even as the beats encourage dancefloor participation. Bryan Ferry gave the outfit his blessing by having them open his 2011 summer tour and while the music doesn't approximate his cool, artsy romanticism, there are clear parallels to some of his previous work circa Roxy Music's Manifesto as well as a good bit of New Order. But this is more lighthearted, especially because of the two female lead singers and the dry Phil Oakey-style male singer who trade off vocals. There's some Tom Tom Club, too, especially in the bone-dry vocals, but the six-piece is better at mixing funk, art rock, glam, disco, and even experimental tendencies together to form something fresh, lively, yet clearly referenced by the sound and style of 1980-1983 indie dance. The six-piece invited numerous guests to assist on their previous set, but this is more of a cohesive group project and the difference in comfort and synergy between the members is evident. Even some solid rock riffs, such as the one that leads off "Winter Falls," sneak into the band's unusual dynamic. The drumming that helps ground it all is elastic and malleable, making this follow-up a more successful and well-rounded album that seems to be just the beginning of something really good.

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