Riot on the Swingset
Some say punk is dead, others say it just sucks now. Most hear the word and conjure up images of spit and safety pins, forgetting what it’s supposed to be all about: fun, simple rock n’ roll with a “fuck it” attitude. HEARTSREVOLUTION may not fit into the accepted aesthetic of punk, but their Ride or Die LP is full of the spirit. With none of the too-cool-for-school airs that so many bands put on, HEARTSREVOLUTION is a reminder of what it sounds like when musicians have honest fun.
Ben Pollock and Leyla Safai push a sound that’s spacey and poppy with lots of quick, catchy beats and sparkling synth melodies that give off an MGMT vibe on songs like “Kishi Kaisei,” mixed with an endearingly obnoxious get-out-of-my-face attitude. The album’s title track kicks up with Safai chanting “Excuse me, I got something to say / Nobody puts baby in a corner,” showing exactly where this band is coming from. Her standard vocal delivery is somewhere between Kathleen Hanna and Tommy Pickles, giving the songs a playful feeling of youth with a hard, serrated edge.
Not every track here is a slam dunk. “Digital Suicide” goes for a heavily layered and messed-with sound, piling effects on top of one another until the atmospheric ballad turns into a jumble of colors with no real definition. Just when you’re getting lulled into that lazy daydream, however, HEARTSREVOLUTION comes back with “Kill Your Radio,” a badass jam of synthesized power chords, nasty guitar licks and laser gun sound effects that sees the band at their crazy best. Moments like this carry the album through its less inspiring moments, and the astoundingly out of place “Final Destination,” a hip hop track, comes off as some kind of absurd M.I.A/Wale collaboration.
When they’re good they’re really damn good, but Ride or Die is just a bit too scatter-brained to come into its own as a really damn good album. There’s a bit of riot grrrl meets bubblegum pop, the kind of thing you might expect from a band that sells merchandise and popsicles out of a Swarovski-bedazzled ice cream truck. Naturally, there are hits and misses. It’s still a fun record, and at times it feels like HEARTSREVOLUTION has picked up where Le Tigre left off, in the best possible way.