April 2, 2009

Test Spin: Harlem Shakes

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Technicolor Health opens with the song “Nothing But Change, Pt. 2,” and although the lyrics tout change, this song is definitely not any different from past recordings by the Harlem Shakes. Rather, it sounds just like what the musical doctor ordered for the band. After over two years since their very successful six-song Burning Birthdays EP debut, it was about time for an LP from this group. However, if the first five songs and the bonus track would have been released as another EP, I might have been more satisfied with this release.
On “Strictly Game,” Lexy Benaim sings in his high-pitched voice, “This will be a better year / I’m gonna make a lot of money / Take a lot of shit.” This could not be more suggestive of The Mountain Goat’s “This Year,” in which John Darnielle sings in his similar high-voice, “I am gonna make it through this year if it kills me.” Although “Strictly Game” is riffing off one of the best Mountain Goats songs, it’s still no more than a replica.
The Harlem Shakes redeem themselves with “Sunlight,” the catchiest tune on the album that even gives a nod to the other famous work with “technicolor” in the title (the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, of course) with the lyrics, “I had a coat of many colors / Sold it off online / Now I duck my older brothers.”
Listening beyond “Sunlight,” the second half of the album unfortunately fulfills the change that was described in the opening number, and it’s a change in sound for the poorer. On the rest of Technicolor Health, the Harlem Shakes fall short on creating the ear-catching transitions and bridges which made their EP such a hit.