Denmark is a country I’ve never actually been to, but I feel like I have. That’s partially because I listen to so much music that comes from the Scandinavian region, but also because one of my friends is dating a girl he met on exchange in Copenhagen, so we have a flurry of activity from the region and a whole lot of bubbly blondes with strange last names in our circle of mates at the moment. What I always find interesting about meeting people from other countries is how much they invest (or don’t) in their local culture and how much they subscribe to a piecemeal version of the US/UK hegemony that many other places seem to make the norm. The first thing I say when I meet a foreigner is ‘tell me the three best bands from your country’, which is why I was kind of suprised when these Danes didn’t seem so forthcoming. In fact I’m pretty sure they said ‘most of our music is boring’, which, if you listen to today’s song, clearly isn’t the case. They preferred to namecheck popstars from surrounding nations, or talk about those that were famous for their parents, which I’d clearly have no hope in hell of knowing. So hopefully I’ll do them a favour by introducing them to three of their fabulous countrymen, New Politics.
To be fair, New Politics do live in Brooklyn at the moment. They moved over when they scored a record deal with RCA (home, among others, to the eternal hipsters that are The Strokes), inspired by – one assumes – the YOLO moment that hits when you’re a twenty-something who lives in a place where it usually gets dark at three in the afternoon. Their sound is equal parts ripsnorting American power-pop and Scandinavian blitz-punk, bringing to mind a more measured, but certainly no less exciting version of The Hives. New Politics are also playing at South by South West, otherwise known as the music conference in Austin Texas with the hashtag that is blowing up everyone’s Twitter feeds and, if you’re like me, making you insanely jealous. It’s funny, because their sound would have been far more cool in, say, 2005. But that’s the great thing about kids who don’t grow up in America. They don’t play by the rules. They just play what they want to, over and over again.
With those talkbox vocal effects, huge Orson-esque lead melodies and cheerlader girl BVs (notice how we’re still on vocals), these guys could easily be written off as a really bad OC band, but they’re carrying it off a lot more convincingly than a Bait Shop has-been. This is the sound of pop kids brought up on ’60s guitar music; the riffage tight, simple and effective, the drums screaming out for handclaps and those quick thirty-second turnarounds that seemed destined for the next Apple commercial. You’ve heard this sound before in many iterations – Sugarcult, for instance – , but perhaps never (to paraphrase the NPR presenter who sold it to me initially) as joyful. There’s no underlying sense of irony or thinly veiled snark here, that you hear in so many US bands pushing this boulder up Capitol Hill. Because they’re not aware that the wave has passed, that the context is gone, New Politics are free to go as cheesy and sparkly as they want. And don’t they ever.
Try not to smile listening to this. I dare you.
New Politics – ‘Harlem’