If there’s anything that was meant by the early Black Kids press, it wasn’t about hype or the power of the Internet, or the way that the music business is today. It’s that people like music from the ’80s a lot more than they’re generally willing to admit. Who could ignore how much the repeat-demanding “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You” owed to the Cure?
Black Kids, “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You” (download)
That single is here, on their first full-length, Partie Traumatic, and aesthetic pinpoints of the decade don’t end there. The not quite ballad but still calmed down “I’m Making Eyes At You” owes a thing or two to bands like New Order and Kraftwerk with its light, bloopy electronics and hand-clappish drum machines.
Pitchfork, the site many credit with the group’s overnight boom, has since rescinded its support, giving Partie Traumatic a staggeringly low 3.3 – a drop of half of their scale from the Kids’ Wizard of Ahhhs EP. In some regards, this doesn’t make sense. All of the songs they loved from that EP are on Partie Traumatic. In other ways, it stands to reason. Those four songs – “I’m Not Gonna…,” “Hurricane Jane,” “Hit the Heartbrakes” and “I’ve Underestimated My Charm (Again)” – are still the best on the album. The rest are filler in comparison to the group’s original trajectory.
But if there’s anything really offensive about Partie Traumatic, it’s the absurd lyrics, which have been more or less present since the band’s beginning. They’re largely playfully tongue-in-cheek – one hopes – and definitely deliberate: though the title of the closing track is “Look At Me (When I Rock Wichoo),” Youngblood actually sings “with you,” in the song. But there are times when cutesy crosses over into eye-roll inducing, like in the title track when he insists, “You’re right / this song is the tits,” or when he refers to a ghost in a girl’s underwear (“Hit the Heartbreakes”).
Their brashness isn’t all bad, but this is clearly a young group that doesn’t know how to play up their assets. Youngblood, for example, certainly likes his gender benders. In “Hurricane Jane,” he tells a girl, “I want you inside me,” and decides she’s thinking “Christ / he’s everybody’s girl.” There’s also that opening line in their hit single: “You are the girl that I’ve been dreaming of / ever since I was a little girl.” But he never takes this gender flip-flopping further than that, into “Madame George” or “Lola” territory. By leaving it at a few mismatched pronouns, one wonders if he was trying to make some sort of half-assed statement or just got confused during the writing process.
Black Kids, “Hurricane Jane” (download)
This isn’t to say that all music has to be “thinking,” however, and as a light-hearted dance pop band, Black Kids fare well enough. Their pubescent hyper-sexuality coupled with familiar ’80s dance beats make Partie Traumatic the perfect album to listen to while having a dance party in your living room – or in your bed.
Ultimately, it’s hard to point any wagging fingers at Black Kids. They’re likely a band pushed too high too fast, as so many bloggers have already argued, and the lackluster additions to Partie Traumatic could very well be their case in point. For this reason, criticisms aside, one should make a point to take this album for what it is: cheeky, carefree pop, likely to remind you of your more awkward school days. When you were a kid. And you didn’t know any better.