Take ’em or Leave ’em
Here We Are is a declaration. The London-based quintet Citizens! makes a bold gesture with this debut album, blazoning its presence on the music scene with an album full of infectious electro-pop that veers into a funky, disco vibe influenced by Bowie-era glam pop. It’s almost surprising that Here We Are isn’t adorned with some sort of punctuation – the band’s name proudly sports an exclamation point, and while it may seem excessive in print, Citizens! is exuberant and energetic enough to earn some superfluous grammatical flair. But the album is more of a simple proclamation, presenting itself without frills – here we are, it says. Take us or leave us.
And the band has gotten the better end of that deal so far. Signed by the ultra-chic French label Kitsuné, the band attracted Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand to produce Here We Are. Kapranos’s influence is clear on the slick dance track “(I’m in Love with Your) Girlfriend,” where funky synths and a low, pulsing bass purr under vocalist Tom Burke’s crooning. The ultra-cool walking bass and catchy chorus on “Monster” and the bouncing beat and buzzing synths on “Reptile” belie the Scottish musician’s collaboration. The single “True Romance” is the album’s best moment – it begins with spare percussion and sing-song keys plunking along in an undeniably cheery melody, complemented by pumping bass and Burke’s sweet vocals. It’s a love anthem for the twenty-first century; digitized guitars blare like brassy trumpets, surrounded by interweaving layers of tinkling keys and swooning synths.
“True Romance” also feels like the most honest and heartfelt track, and a fitting way for the band to proclaim, “Here we are!” The rest of the album doesn’t quite hold up to the jubilant openness of “True Romance.” “Caroline” is repetitive and lyrically dull, and the album dissipates into awkward rhythmic experimentation on “I Wouldn’t Want To” and “Know Yourself.” While Kapranos brings some of his own hooky disco-pop sensibilities to Here We Are, it just isn’t sexy like Franz Ferdinand’s music can be. Here We Are is super polished, its tracks buffed clean, meticulously crafted to be perfect, pure pop. This is clear on the rather vapid love song “Caroline” and “Love You More,” where the band complains about sell-outs while engaging in a saccharine, commercialized chorus.
But Burke does have a point on “Love You More.” He sings, “There’s all kinds of places to go from here,” and that’s exactly right. Here We Are is a solid debut, but it’s really a stepping-stone. Here they are, and hopefully they’re not going away any time soon.