Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Does It Offend You, Yeah

Does It Offend You, Yeah?
You Have No Idea What You Are Getting Yourself Into
[Virgin; 2008]
Rating: 2.3
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Does It Offend You, Yeah? are a hard band to warm to. There's the name, for one thing: a question whose only tempting reply is an exaggerated shrug. But at least ask yourself what kind of sonics might fit that name. Howling batteries of unreconstructed noise? Try again. High-strung mall-emo with serious entitlement issues? If only. Barely adequate dance-rock to keep you occupied until the next Klaxons record? Now we're talking!

As this album trundles on, its title turns unpleasantly sarcastic. Any one of these tracks will give you a very strong idea what you've gotten yourself into, and that'll be the only strong idea you meet. Does It Offend You, Yeah? play doggedly ugly, riff-driven electro. Their harsh, crunching keyboards might sound raw and immediate, if it wasn't for the way the hooks slide out your brain so fast. Their ranting vocals might seem confrontational, but they're autotuned so often they feel diffident and defensive. Their beats might be so propulsive as to make all that irrelevant-- except all the band's rhythmic ideas are stuck a decade ago, like they've bought up some old Chemical Brothers kit on eBay and haven't read the manual yet.

So this record's creative and artistic value is pretty much nil-- in fact it only just hits competent. But that's OK-- I don't get the feeling the band are shooting for "art" anyway, and competent music can still be functional music: a good accompaniment to more exciting activities. Does It Offend You, Yeah? have already licensed songs to the FIFA Street 3 game, for instance: I can imagine the yelpy "Battle Royale" sounding fine if half-heard while doing digital ball-juggling.

Other songs will also have their uses. It's probably a bit stale for advertising, but the tolerably aggressive "We Are Rockstars" might work over a montage of camphone footage in a sales presentation. Partygoers throughout 2008 may wake up grateful the band wrote a song called "Let's Make Out" so they could burp the title into someone's ear. The best track, which for two minutes does recapture Klaxons' playful frenzy, could be great on a sweaty college dancefloor. It is still called "Attack of the 60 Ft Lesbian Octopus", but you have to start somewhere.

The closing songs do find the group stretching themselves a little more-- "Epic Last Song" and "Being Bad Feels Pretty Good" lose the electro-vox and go for something a little slower and a lot more pained. To no great surprise, when they drop the nu-rave trappings the band fit perfectly into a long-shuffling queue of British plod-rock, somewhere between Shed Seven and Gay Dad.

But the thing about offending people is that you can nearly always find someone to take the bait. In the band's own world, Does It Offend You, Yeah? are electro punks with nostalgia in their sights: They talk in interviews about how old-school ravers are disgusted by their rock sounds and instrument-smashing stageplay. I suppose it's possible-- maybe they're just rightly pissed at the band's tired ideas and terminal complacency.

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