January 25, 2006

National Trist "Kings and Queens"

You’ve got to be kidding me. There’s parody, there’s bad, and then there’s this. Highly evolved yet painfully unfunny ironic ‘dance’ music? Ugh. This joke isn’t funny any more, even though, of course, it probably never was funny. We’re living in a post-Har Mar Superstar/Chromeo world, and, man, this National Trust record is just…UGH.

But here’s the bigger conundrum—they can do better. They have done better. Their previous two releases were enigmatic, a weird blend of psychedelic rock, pop, and soul. It wasn’t perfect, but by no means was it bad. That the band released records so sporadically didn’t help matters, either. It’s been four years since they quietly released their last record, and that was three years after their debut single. Those records were interesting and enjoyable and fascinating.

The same cannot be said about this horrible record. Gone is the jazz. In its place are horrible synth-rock blips and bleeps, R&B production circa 1980 made by real musicians from that era, all accentuated by pseudo-Prince style crooning and horribly bad lyrical content that, to be generous, might be mistaken as parody. It’s hard to be more specific about it, because that would require having to listen to this again. Lyrics are supposed to be funny, but recall the phrase “it’s a fine line between clever and stupid.”

You decide where they belong, because my mind’s made up.

If they hadn’t opted for using the most clichéd R&B rhythms and hip-pop beats, Kings and Queens might have been good. But they didn’t do that; they opted to make a record that sounds like a parody of a parody record, and it’s just damn near awful. That they enlisted the help of nearly three dozen R&B and pop mavens* who have worked with Britney Spears, The Emotions, Teddy Pendergrass, and R. Kelly helps to explain the excellent, slick music.

That The National Trust is two Chicago-based indie-rock hipsters helps to explain why this record is utter crap. According to the press bio, the band nearly called it a day in 2002: “Either it was call it a day, hang our heads in defeat and live with the bad memories, or start over and work in the exact opposite frame of mind. So we started with frenzy and celebration as if there were no other option.” You should have broken up. Dekkagar was a great record. Kings and Queens isn’t.

Save your money. If you buy this record, you’re either part of the problem, or you’re stupid.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.thrilljockey.com/artists/?id=10046
Label Website: http://www.thrilljockey.com

*that’s a fancy word for ‘people who should know better’

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