There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Few indie-rock albums are solely concerned with love, but Black Kids’ debut, Partie Traumatic, has got it on the brain, both the mushy and the gushy kind—to employ the kind of dirty rhyme the band might use. The sex comes into play in songs like “Listen to Your Body Tonight,” about one man’s desperate attempt to get laid. “So, now you’re in my bedroom/All talkin’ about some boom-boom/But you really shouldn’t assume/‘Cause my man is coming home soon,” sings keyboardist Ali Youngblood, and the twisting electro beat feels as raunchy and illicit as the lyrics. Similarly, “I Wanna Be Your Limousine” is another sexual come-on (probably), but more often the songs are concerned with love of the unrequited variety. “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You,” one of four songs here originally for the group’s 2007 EP, Wizard of Ahhhs, is about a guy hoping to win over his love interest with his dance moves. It is a rousing, anthemic ode to salvaging a little dignity, and one listen will clue you in to why so many fell in love with the group last year. (The band’s deal with Columbia Records was practically created out of blogger slobber.) Since then, Black Kids hasn’t changed its formula much: Six new songs were quickly recorded, the original four remain mostly unchanged, and nearly all channel seductive, inspired grooves. Employing soaring rock choruses, Motown boogie, and even a pop-metal guitar lick every now and then, Partie Traumatic’s heart is in an ’80s electro dance club, with sweat on the walls and attendees hooking up in the bathroom. But though the album is concerned with filling dance floors, the tunes also channel the ecstasy and devastation such scenes often inspire. They’re almost always solid, but at times lead singer Reggie Youngblood emulates the lyricism of Morrissey and David Bowie by experimenting with gender ambiguity—“He’s everybody’s girl,” “You are the girl that I’ve been dreaming of ever since I was a little girl”—and he’s not a strong enough songwriter to get away with tricks like that. Elsewhere the group attempts to piss off politically correct types with sexually tinged call-and-responses between Youngblood and his sister Ali. (The band’s name is designed to tweak noses too, given that only two of the five members are black.) But Partie Traumatic works best when it simply abandons itself to tales of young love and lust, where Youngblood’s characters seem to be either trying to get a girl to cheat on, or lamenting the fact that his own girlfriend is cheating on him. If this was a Mötley Crüe album, these set-ups would lead to a ménage à trois and busted heads. But as it is, there’s simply a whole lot of heartache, and somehow that feels a lot more, yes, traumatic.