Review: Dragonette – Bodyparts

We were prepared to hate it.

It’s a strange thing to say – their startling debut, Galore, topped our very first best electronic albums of the year list in 2007, and their second album, Fixin’ to Thrill was a solid, fun follow-up, and another to make our best of the year list. So why face this one with anything but excitement and a sense of urgency?

Dragonette have been on an interesting journey. They started as a hybrid band that used electronics as an augment to the more traditional instrumentation which was still  very prominent. Their debut had a greasy, unfinished vibe that ensured it never got too slick. It was alternative rock with a nice electronic edge. It was rough around the edges while still maintaining a glam sheen. Since that time they have moved further and further in the sudsy direction, cleaning up the scene, edging increasingly toward the pop  and away from the rough. Then they started working with Martin Solveig on a series of hyper-glossy tracks, most famously, the it single “Hello”. They followed up with the ill-conceived summer double a-side “Our Summer/Volcano” and then the similarly shiny “Let it Go”, an uninspired song that added nothing to the Dragonette cannon.  The band posted snippets of the new album on their website and taken in teeny, infinitesimal bites, this collection sounded similarly overly glossed. Like Katy Perry crossed with a drag discotheque. Not impressive. The most purely electronic album to date from the band also seeming to be the most soulless. 

But sometimes you just need to sit down with an album and get to know it, to get past the awkward introduction and into a surprisingly fun first date. One that looks promisingly to lead to sex later on.

What’s key when taking on Bodyparts is to understand and accept that this is a band much removed from the gloriously rough-hewn early years. One can’t easily compare the two styles and one shouldn’t try. They are in a new place and one should judge this album purely on those terms. And on those terms, it’s a pretty fun ride.

What hasn’t been lost is their unique voice. Strange rhythms and tones that just seem to work, a wide swath of styles within one album cycle, Martina Sorbara’s full-throated sexy vocal, it’s all there, just produced a lot more tightly. Song for song the album is rock solid, rife with terrific dance-inflected tracks. The disco-rage of “Right Woman” which would not have felt out of place on Goldfrapp’s Head First album; the rollicking “My Work is Done”; the brilliant club track “Riot” with various 80s synth moments strewn throughout (in fact the entire project positively reeks of that decade – see video below); the tremendous hoppy “Giddy Up” the most original and clever song on the album. The lyrics aren’t the deepest, the sounds not always the most inherently original, but damn it’s 42 minutes of non-stop fun.

We were prepared to hate it, but now we can’t seem to stop listening to it. Well done folks. Again.

Watch: Live in This City

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