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Record Review: Selebrities’ Ladies Man Effect

By / Posted on 11 November 2010

Ladies Man EffectThere comes a time in every audiophile’s life when they want to listen to some Joy Division but don’t want to think very hard. This seems to be the mission statement of Ladies Man Effect, the debut EP from Brooklyn trio Selebrities. All the standards of  classic new wave pop rock are accounted for, with shimmering guitars, methodically upbeat programmed drums, deep Moog synths and classic 4/4 loop song structures. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, it’s just, well, nothing special.

As they currently stand, Selebrities will be hard-pressed to avoid comparisons to similar bands. In photographs, they resemble a kinder, gentler Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Singer Maria Usbeck’s voice is akin to a less forceful Siouxsie Sioux. The four original tracks on this EP would fit comfortably in any 80′s teen coming-of-age movie, alongside the likes of Modern English and Tears for Fears.

Opener “Secret Garden” is instantly catchy and engaging, with the most variety to offer of the whole EP. The lyrics are simultaneously ambiguously deep and relentlessly shallow. “The sunlight makes me weep. The flowers and the trees. The demons, they come quick. I just want to let myself go with you. In the garden, we all hide and seek.” Single “Time” follows with exactly two moods: shuffling in place teen dance and double-time-hi-hat-super-shuffle-in-place. “The Moonlight” flirts on the opposite edge of the shoegaze line that would likely be mistaken for brooding if not for programmer Max Peterson’s deft use of handclaps and cowbells. “The Audition” keeps that momentum from pep to brood moving in full effect with a straight goth drone. None of this is bad, it’s all actually quite pleasant, but there is a sterility overall; an inclination that there is fantastic flavor in Selebrities that has merely yet to be properly prepared for consumption. The EP wraps with a cover of Technotronic’s 1992 hit “Move This,” a song popularized by a Revlon campaign featuring Cindy Crawford. I’ve already used the word “shallow,” so let’s just move on.

Much like NYC contemporaries Asobi Seksu’s self-titled debut, Ladies Man Effect is an enjoyable callback to what was great about 80′s pop that has somehow been forgotten by the majority of musicians, demonstrates a degree of skill and playfulness by the band, but little more. While it’s arguable whether Asobi Seksu were better or worse for following the path to My Bloody Valentine fuzz jams thereafter, we can all agree that they at least found their sound and followed it. This is the next step for Selebrities, who have a new single and full LP in the works. Ladies Man Effect is a fun first impression, as every good band has to start somewhere. I very much look forward to seeing what happens next.

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Derrick Sanskrit has produced critically-acclaimed work as an artist and writer for Nerve, Babble, Pitchfork, The Onion and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, among others. He founded The Pop Aesthetic during the coldest months of his life in 2010.