New Wave? No Thanks

On their hotly anticipated debut, Black Kids recycle, well, garbage

Jay Boller


Black Kids

ALBUM: “Partie Traumatic”
LABEL: Columbia Records

“At least in dying you don’t have to deal with New Wave for a second time.”

The above wisdom was sung/spoke by The Hold Steady’s front man Craig Finn, an individual who’s been in the indie rock trenches for some time. Black Kids – an infant band out of Jacksonville – have not paid such dues. Alas, they’re currently riding high atop the tidal wave of hype that comes with being deemed the Web’s “Next Big Thing” by Pitchfork, Village Voice and the likes.

But back to Finn’s quote. New Wave did stink. Hell, the ’80s were largely forgettable as a whole. Enter: Black Kids. The youngsters’ debut, “Partie Traumatic,” could very well have been plucked right out of 1982. That’s not to say the disc is all bad, but when you build a house out of crap – well, it doesn’t matter if it ends up looking like Taj Mahal.

The Kids did manage to construct an outwardly pleasing structure. The synth lines are undeniably catchy; the plucky guitars crunch regularly and riff at the perfect times. Lead singer Reggie Youngblood’s vocals channel Robert Smith, but even at his whiniest, Smith’s vocals preserved a certain depth whereas Youngblood’s largely come off as shallow.

Speaking of shallow, New Wave records never skimp on production, and “Partie Traumatic” is no exception. Every song is glossed to within an inch of its life, resulting in a sound void of most shreds of humanity. But Black Kids’ music is not meant to enrich or have depth – it’s simply dance music.

Since you have a pulse and are reading this sentence, odds are you’re very much alive. Congrats. Now, if you will, reread Finn’s quote at the beginning of this article. Alright, done? Now, consider Black Kids on a conceptual level. Super-hyped from demo to stardom, this New Wave band has hardly chewed, let alone cut their teeth in any way, shape or form. Sure, “Partie Traumatic” sounds fine and is a solid choice for a drunken night at Too Much Love. But if – ala the early ’80s – this becomes the norm, maybe dying isn’t the worst option.