THE BIG RELEASE
Backstreet Boys — DNA
THE problem with boy bands is that boys get older. There’s a certain fascination in watching them deal with this. For every Robbie Williams or Justin Timberlake, there’s a cluster of failed solo careers. Take That re-emerged as a mature pop act — a man band, let’s say — but few others carry it off.
Backstreet Boys have taken the unusual approach of simply pretending it hasn’t happened. Musically, it seems to be working. DNA is their ninth studio album but in style, sound and overall quality, it might be one of their first: no obvious breakout hit but a set of sturdy pop songs that play to their harmony-group vocal strengths, subtly tweaked to allow for changes in fashion without making obvious efforts to pander to it.
Yet there is an essential fiction to the boy-band formula that becomes ever trickier to maintain: the affectation of emotional and sexual vulnerability when the reality could be very different. What might sound like confusion or pleading from teenagers can start to feel manipulative.
‘You changed your hair, I like it now,’ runs The Way It Was, which sounds an awful lot like the practice known as negging. Then there’s Passionate, a nifty, upbeat tune but one that does not sit well in the #MeToo era: ‘I’m the type of person to get carried away… I want your love/ I’ma do whatever it takes… I know I come on hard… I can’t help but I need to get my hands on all of it.’ Um.
DNA is a solid piece of work but it gets no points for reading the room.
It may not catch the mood but DNA is an appealingly nostalgic release from a group clearly built to last.
The Dandy Warhols — Why You So Crazy
Dine Alone Records ★★★✩✩
THOSE of us who have followed The Dandy Warhols on a quarter-century journey that might best be described as picaresque can say this much: it has never once been dull. Experience has taught us to expect only one consistent quality from them — an impish urge to stir up trouble.
So it goes with their tenth album, which you’d struggle to identify as bearing any relation to the band whose turn-of-the-millennium hits Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth (you seldom hear a lyric more deliciously jaded than Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s withering ‘heroin is so passé’) and Bohemian Like You remain indie disco staples.
Why You So Crazy veers between cold, alien electronica, feedback-ridden rockabilly and psyched-up Americana, not necessarily on different songs (standout track Motor City Steel all but covers the lot), and concludes with a piano piece from Ravel.
Any chumps can be eccentric, of course, and the Dandys are as erratic as they are eclectic. That’s part of their charm. Whether hitting or missing, they always swing with the same brio and we who hold them dear cherish that aspect the most. Why they so crazy? We don’t know but they’re our nutcases.