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Party Punks

New Black

New Black
(Thick Records)
3 (out of 5 stars)

Reviewed: Jan. 19, 2004

Review by Tony Bonyata

Normally black leather and snarling attitudes don't mix well with Tiki lights and Mai-Tais, but thanks to the Chicago-based quartet New Black's soon-to-be-released self-titled debut album you can toss out those fancy little stirrers from your drink, because if this bombastic platter of fun doesn't thoroughly mix your cocktail, the slam dancing surely will.
New Black consists of Patti Gran (vocals / guitars), Liam Kimball (vocals / bass), Rachel Shindelman (keyboards / vocals) and Nick Kraska (drums), and the sound that leaps straight from their nine-song album is no-nonsense post-punk rock married with nonsensical, quirky new wave, and strangely enough it's a union that just may last.
While the eccentric and often light-hearted key phrasings from Shindelman may, at first, draw comparisons to the B-52's, there are also breathy sounds that emulate from her organ that slink and creep, leaving a rather unsettling feeling.
Both Kimball and Gran trade off lead vocal duties and the difference between the two is relatively broad. Gran's voice turns from dry, disaffected nonchalance ("The Kill") to herky-jerky, soulbaring screams ("Last Wave") on a dime, while Kimball's is a more head-on, snot-and-safety-pins delivery ("Angel With Cockroach Wings"). When the two belt it out together, however, on the runaway freight-train choruses of "Twisted Lips" and "Put It To Bed," the emotive pairings prove to be deliciously decadent.
Peeking from behind all of the shadows, screams, scrappy guitars and beats that turn from primal stomps to frenetic, whipcrack wipe-outs, are actually many well-constructed songs and catchy (dare I say, pop) melodies here, which add a sunny, twisted smile to the band's more ominous side.
So crank-up this short, sweet album at your next little soiree; just don't blame me when you get a boot to the head while you're passing granny to kegger.

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