Harlem Shakes – Technicolor Health Harlem Shakes – Technicolor Health

Harlem Shakes – Technicolor Health

Harlem Shakes – Technicolor Health

Allow me to take a moment to recount my brief and heady love affair with the Harlem Shakes. We met almost three years ago at a show in Newport, KY as I watched them completely blow headliners Tapes n’ Tapes out of the fucking water. Convinced I had just seen the best power-pop band in the history of music, I bought their self-released Burning Birthdays EP that evening and proceeded to love it to little bits, after which it soon became the soundtrack to that summer. Those killer melodies! That singer’s androgynous voice! Those razor-guitar chords! That exuberant back-up singing! But alas, the Shakes left me cold waiting for a full-length to appear, and I moved on like any reasonable person would (to a still-strong relationship with Ted Leo). Meanwhile, the Harlem Shakes dropped off the face of the Earth.

Until now that is. Like a desperate text message from a forgotten ex, I received an e-mail from their two-years dormant mailing list. A new album. A new tour. Signed to Gigantic Music. Really, Harlem Shakes? You think we can just start up again, just like that? And like the dirty two-timer I am, I went behind Ted Leo’s back and checked out what this new Harlem Shakes was up to. They’ve still got the same mush-mouthed crooner. They’ve still got their humble knack for great pop melodies. And, darn it, that adorable back-up singing is still there. But there’s something different about you, Harlem. Have you been spending too much time in the studio? Have you been playing with drum machines? Gross, Harlem, we both know those don’t do anything but clutter up and sterilize your sound. And you’re littering your songs with useless acoustic guitar tracks, now? Where did those come from? I know you’re more original than that. Opener “Nothing But Change Part II” is refreshing and energetic, and “TFO” (a holdover from a few years back that underwent a glossy revamp for this album) is downright charming, but man does the rote club-beat pop of “Niagara Falls” and “Sunlight” sound like a hundred other “quirky pop + studio trickery” bands (get back to me on a more compact stereotype put-down genre). Second-half standout “Winter Water” does well in breaking the mold with a few moments of chaos and a memorable melody, and the closing title track, drum machine aside, is pretty heartwarming, but I’m hard-pressed to say any nice things about the rest of this cripplingly rudimentary indie-pop album.

Look, Harlem Shakes, thanks for lunch, but I don’t think it’s going to work out between us. Don’t get me wrong, if you ever come through town again, we should totally hang out, but it’s pretty obvious that we’ve both changed since 2007. And so, a little torn up and disappointed, I find myself eating chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream straight from the carton while watching 27 Dresses. Sigh.

Harlem Shakes - Technicolor Health, reviewed by Squeri on 2009-04-07T22:09:43-07:00 rating 3.7 out of 5

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