Review: Private Dancer — “Alive in High Five”

Private Dancer provide the sounds of summer

by Tony Libera

Private Dancer ALBUM: âÄúAlive in High FiveâÄù LABEL: Learning Curve The first time I saw Private Dancer live was at the 2008 Memory Lanes Block Party , straddling a few hardwood lanes atop a makeshift stage. Bowling alleys arenâÄôt the most effective place to host a rock âÄònâÄô roll show, and many bands wouldâÄôve been stifled by the setting. But not Private Dancer. They opened their set with a string of hyper-energetic, feel-good tunes, peeled off into covers of David Bowie , Little Richard and T-Rex, and then let volunteers come up onstage to do karaoke while the band provided backup. Private Dancer impressed three things on me that night: They have great taste in music, they know how to rock out, balls to the wall, and they have a good time doing it. Their new album, âÄúAlive in High Five,âÄù is rooted on these three basic principles. From the sunny, palm tree-flecked album cover to the final track, this is a record that screams rock âÄònâÄô roll and summertime fun. With songs about good friends, alluring women and the beach, Private Dancer grounds us in the present, making the subzero gloom of Minnesota winter seem like a distant memory, if it ever existed at all. The album opens with a bright instrumental, âÄú2000 Year Wave,âÄù lulling us into an airy ambience before we move into the charged, winding jams that best exemplify Private DancerâÄôs restless spirit. As we melt into âÄúDiane,âÄù a semi-obsessive love song (which competes with âÄúInto the DarkâÄù for best track on the album), we find ourselves in full Private Dancer swing. The guitars duel, spinning lines in vibrant directions. The drums roll around our ears. Alex Achen shouts his entrancement to the winds: âÄúWell IâÄôve met girls just like you before / IâÄôve had them knocking at my door / But IâÄôve never had a kiss like yours, Diane.âÄù The backing vocals provide plenty of bop-bops, which are, of course, the ultimate staples of summer pop songs. The bop-bops are soon accompanied by plenty of other infectious, albeit meaningless, noises. Ooh-la-las abound on tracks like âÄúCommunity Gardens,âÄù and âÄúBajama Beach,âÄù sucking us into the carefree glee and frantic energy of the record. Songs like âÄúWeekendâÄù and âÄúInto the DarkâÄù take this energy to its peak with their guitars careening near the brink of total chaos and pulling back just in time to keep the listener hooked. The only real downside to âÄúAlive in High FiveâÄù is that it canâÄôt fully match Private DancerâÄôs live efforts. ThatâÄôs not a slight âÄî quite the opposite. ItâÄôs just that this band puts on an incredible show. It would take some cosmic producer-deity to replicate their ineffable live verve, and sadly, Brian Eno costs too much. 2.5/4 Stars