Album Review: Vanity Theft – Get What You Came For

Whether it’s in conversation or in a review, describing a band to another person is an awkward affair, especially when operating under the assumption that the subject is a complete mystery to the audience.  The possibilities are seemingly endless. Compare the artist to other acts? Invent a ridiculously hyphenated new genre? Stick with genre pigeonholing? Lofty metaphors? Sometimes a band or their press agent will make a reviewer’s job easier by offering a description of their own sound for the benefit of the uninitiated. According to the bio page of Vanity Theft, the Dayton quartet has a sound “somewhere between the work of Sleater-Kinney and the Ting Tings.” Bassist Lalaine Paras also offers a memorable quote: “We may have vaginas, but we’re not pussies.”

Vanity Theft’s latest full-length, Get What You Came For, opens with “Trainwreck”, and the Ting Tings part of the band’s description is immediately apparent. Like the dance-pop duo that became a worldwide phenomenon, Vanity Theft is upbeat and danceable. It’s music that is meant to be fun, and “Trainwreck” is probably the strongest example of this, thanks to a chorus relentless in its efforts to stick in the mind. “Bit by Bit” is the variety of synth-pop that dominates the charts nowadays, while “Anatomy” is the sort of single that is destined for placement in teenage television dramas. These same statements can be attributed to most of the songs on the album, which are all the same brand of cookie-cutter contemporary music.

What about the Sleater-Kinney side of Vanity Theft? Can the harsh and in-your-face play nice with the catchy and innocuous? Generously put, Vanity Theft’s description is not entirely apt in that regard. Get What You Came For never touches upon the spirit of the riot grrrl legends, nor their element of abrasiveness. The Donnas with keyboards would have been a more fitting comparison. Lyrically, Get What You Came For is a breakup record, and Vanity Theft draws inspiration from these splits and turns these experiences into an album that is both self-empowering and mocking towards those ghosts of relationships past. The songs can be biting, yes, but their venom is without potency.

Shedding the sarcasm and insistent guitar riffs in favor of Auto-Tune, Vanity Theft closes Get What You Came For with its sole ballad, “Missing Teeth”. Hopefully this usage of Auto-Tune is a self-aware wink and nod in a song that is the album’s moment of Narm, but probably not. Get What You Came For is the latest in a line of sleekly produced pop-rock that is meant to get the head nodding but fails to stand out in any way. Like the Ting Tings, there’s not much depth beneath the surface, but with Vanity Theft, there are no truly memorable hooks.


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