Rarely does a band lose its edge quite this fast.
And if any quirky rockers were going to go fuzzy-pencil on their sophomore attempt, the listening world probably wouldn't expect it to be Junior Senior, the Danish garage-fabulous pop duo who challenged the term "dance music" in 2003 with their debut, D-D-Don't Don't Stop The Beat.
The flamingly take-no-haters glee is there, but the sexy take-no-shit experimentation is gone. Where every track on Beat had it's own kick-Disco-in-the-balls lyrics ("Chicks and Dicks" and "White Trash" come to mind), this reissue of their 2005 sophmore album, Hey Hey My My Yo Yo (Ryko), filters the lyric options down to the words "dance" and "chance." (If we wanted to groove to ABBA classics, we would.) Where their first album kept feet (and heartbeats) on the edge with complex, fresh rhythms, tracks like "Itch U Can't Skratch," "I Like Music," and virtually every other song on Hey Hey force us to regretfully tap our shoes to a Wal-mart selection (and not in a good way) of dance beats, waiting for the "Rhythm Bandits" of this album that never comes.
The versatile vocal abilities of Jesper "Junior" Mortenson and Jeppe "Senor" Laursen have been all but exchanged for an impressive symphony of recruited female vocalists, including Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson of the B-52's, 1960's Motown girl-group The Velvelettes, and electro-political punks Le Tigre. And even though, for instance, Pierson and Wilson glitter on "Take My Time," it's no Jeppe Laursen, and lining them up next to woman after woman robs everyone of the "My My" aspect of this album.. Redefining themselves as a recording studio block party for funky vocalists has, ironically, homogenized Junior Senior's once-outragous sound.
The indisputable highlight of HHMMYY is "Dance, Chance, Romance." One of the five Le Tigre-assisted tracks, it bubbles with Architecture In Helsinki-like delight, shouts of "Halleluyah, halleluyah!" replacing the typical "Woo! Yeah!," an interplay between violin synths and vocal harmony reminiscent of fellow Euro-scientists Belle and Sebastian, and most importantly, a flower-power psychedelia tribute of a guitar hook, the first and only hint of an era besides Motown, disco, or early rap on the record. In fact, the Say Hello, Wave Goodbye EP, included with the new CD, has accomplished more musical variety and intensity than all of the full album put together. Perhaps that's because it kicks off with the band's first-ever song in minor key (and you thought they couldn't pull it off!). Perhaps it's because the songs address issues other than dancing: in fact, on "Headphone Song," Mortenson moans "I can't dance anymore/It's no fun anymore," a line that just didn't make the cut for the Muzak-worthy party-worship of the full album. Or perhaps it simply features more Junior and Senior, the nymphomaniac DJ-demons with something to say. "I can't rap, I can't sing, but I'd do anything for love," they declare to head-spinning beats on "I Can't Sing," featured on the EP. True or not, it's the honesty you long for at the conclusion of Hey Hey....so save it for dessert.
No one's claiming that Junior Senior needs to follow Of Montreal to the realms of deep, dark dance confessions, but when the jagged charm of a promising rock band is lost in crowd-pleasing fluff, musicologists can agree that something is rotten in the state of Denmark. - Dorit Finkel