The Handsome Furs have a problem. Publicly, Dan Boeckner and his wife, Alexei Perry, don't exactly shy away from letting the world know they like to get it on. Check out any number of grope and grab photo jobs, or a topless pic that accompanies the artwork of their latest release for sufficient evidence of that. Call it crass, classless, skeezy, etc. Whatever you deem it though, chances are, it's exactly what these horny Habitants are going for; in real life, and on record.
On their second LP Face Control (Sub Pop), there are some moments where the married duo hit this kind of hedonistic mark. Opener "Legal Tender" is a glitchy, sexual thumper; sort of brings the site of sweaty, swarming bodies on satin sheets to mind as it plays through. For its part, "White City" also comes packaged with the same sort of sparse, heart beat pulse holding the song together. Any inappropriate thoughts can certainly be forgiven.
But Face Control, for the most part, is a pop album; one that only really hits its' stride when it ventures into territory that sparkles just a bit. Yes, sexual rebellion could also take residency in these more pleasant sounding places, but I'm not sure I hear it. Instead, what listener's get is a band singing about how "Heaven was a place we built out of stone" ("Passport Kontrol") to the tune of galloping, Casio tones, and bouncy guitar lines. On "Thy Will Be Done", the general tone is completely harmless, with offbeat keys lending itself to a percolating, almost Caribbean, kind of vibe. And "All We Want Baby, Is Everything", sounds like the band has been playing and listening to their fair share of video game soundtracks. Not exactly the most ideal soundtrack to take romping in the bedroom.
Also, for the record, lost in Face Control is some sort of personal, political statement on the danger of self-monitoring in the digital age the band was hoping to hone in on with the album. Word is, we human beings spend way too much time making sure we're doing what we're supposed to be doing...going where we're supposed to be going. MySpace, Facebook, GPS, surveillance cameras, credit cards; they all do their part to keep the good people of the world in check. But rarely do Boeckner's lyrics capture this sentiment...though he does come kind of close on "Talking" when he declares, "I don't know but I've been told/Every little thing has been bought and sold."
It all makes me wonder: just who are the Handsome Furs? The PR spin behind the band would have you to believe they're a couple of charged up, sexual deviants, who, when not in sack, wouldn't mind pushing some sort vague, political agenda with their music. But Face Control rarely suggest any of this. Instead, the album presents The Handsome Furs as a rather fine, synthetic pop band. I suppose they could be all of the above at once. I'll just need album #3 to convince me. - David Pitz