For the better half of the past decade, we’ve been in some sort of 1980’s pop renaissance. Logic would dictate this to be somewhat true, since the generation that grew up in the 1980’s are turning into the people who are old enough to make the big, crucial artistic decisions that make up the modern world. Comedian Nick Swardson references America’s love for 80’s parties in his new stand-up special, television stations like VH1 Classic are virtually devoted to that era, and synth-electro-pop bands like MGMT and Phoenix plague the airwaves. The new album from Canadian new-wavers, You Say Party! We say Die!, simply titled XXXX, falls right into this realm of new millennium pop culture. Their extremely catchy keyboard hooks, combined with raw guitars and vocals filled with a sort of hypnotic angst, pays homage to the era when MTV played nothing but music videos.
Nothing sets the mood more than the dark opener track “There is XXXX (In My Heart),” lead singer Becky Ninkovic sings a tune of heartbreak so sad over a vibraphone keyboard setting that sends chills down your spine. She swears there’s love in her heart, though (I assume, naturally, that XXXX is supposed to be LOVE), and quite suddenly, over a much friendlier pop riff that could be played in the club somewhere. The drums kick everything up for sure with a rhythmic sort of intensity that you can just imagine people in out-of-style clothes jumping to strobe lights. If John Hughes hears this track, he’ll wish he was still making movies about teenagers dealing with hormones and identity crises.
The album kicks it up even further on the next track that sounds like YSP!WSD!’s answer to the Go-Gos. The song is called “Glory” and contains an opening guitar riff so raw and awesome, one can’t help but feel two things: a) the compulsive urge to rock out and b) the sudden need to try surfing. “Glory” is just a little punk number with a great sounding synth hook, but with the pep in the rhythm, it’s enough to get you stoked. “Make XXXX” (further hinting to LOVE) kicks off with a bass line that thumps hard enough to make your ears ring. The vocals shriek while counting down numbers until the band is telling people to shut up over the bass line, which eventually turns into a muted guitar riff, which then turns into a full fledged rock tune…and eventually back to the bass. It’s like an electo-indie rock puzzle which comes together at the end in a bit of raw intensity.
“Laura Palmer’s Prom” contains one of the most heavenly openings of modern music, putting delightful thoughts in your head. It indeed sounds like what walking into a prom would sound like if you had a soundtrack playing throughout your life. The lyrics speak of needing love while dancing up a storm at the hypothetical prom of the fictional dead girl from the show Twin Peaks. The album concludes with “Heart of Gold” (not to be confused with the Neil Young classic), a heartfelt finale with vocals that take you straight to paradise. Two female voices sing over an elegant keyboards and guitar which create this sense of pure beauty over a band called You Say Party! We Say Die! The song leads up to a jaw-dropping crescendo that stops so suddenly, you’ll wonder if your stereo just broke.
Canada keeps delivering wonderful things to the American culture. They’ve given us Trailer Park Boys, Tim Horton’s, and plenty of half-decent beers, but now they’re sharing a unique synth-rock experience with the musical community. You Say Party! We Say Die! truly exhibit a unique and interesting brand of music on the new and provocative XXXX. Whether you’re at the club to dance, crying in your room, or just looking to listen to something enjoyable, XXXX can easily satisfy these needs. If the music feels right, then rock it, no matter how the hell you feel, even if it feels like you’re about 25 years younger again.