Club music that lurks in the shadows
Night Club have made it their mission to turn the pop genre on its head. Scratch that. They want to put pop music through a shredder and gleefully trample on its remains while chanting “Bloody Mary.” No matter how one puts it, the American electronic duo puts a seriously spooky spin on club music. Made up of Mark Brooks, a founding member of the cult-favorite punk outfit Warlock Pinchers, and Emily Kavanaugh, Night Club comes out with their third studio album Die Die Lullaby, and its exciting fusion of horrorcore, pop, techno and punk music doesn’t disappoint, especially with Halloween around the corner.
Brooks and Kavanaugh are known for their tendency to inject the pop genre with elements of punk, metal, hip-hop and electronica, stirring those influences in a cauldron to achieve a delightfully dark strain of dance music. On Die Die Lullaby, Night Club add some grime and doom to their pop-heavy beats, incorporating subverted nursery rhymes, distorted sound effects and motifs of blood, monsters and coffins, among other nightmarish imagery.
The first notes of Night Club’s eerie lullaby are the distorted chimes of a music box from Hell. All of a sudden, it sounds as if Brooks and Kavanaugh revv up the music box with jumper cables, as a harsh, grainy bass synth cuts through the unsettling tones. The fun begins. Up next is “Die in the Disco,” a high-octane club-ready banger with a distinct ’80s techno feel. Its sound is big and bombastic with a catchy hook (“Let me go/ Let me go/ I wanna die in the disco), as Night Club somehow make wanting to die sound like a blast. “It’s my party and I’ll die if I want to” grumbles Brooks, humorously subverting the classic Lesley Gore song over an energetic club beat.
The opening seconds of the track “Sad Boy” showcase the duo’s ingenuity, as they flip what sounds like the muffled breathing of Darth Vader into the track’s skin-crawling backdrop. “Sad Boy” is a slow-burning techno track with a whomping bass and glitchy synths. “Sad boy, sad boy/ Whatcha gonna do boy?” Kavanaugh jeers to the tune of Ring Around the Rosie, as the energetic tune masks suicidal undertones.
“My Valentine” keeps the instrumentation interesting, with sitar and tabla both making appearances. Harsh buzzsaw synths and emphatic percussion round out the mix, as Kavanaugh’s sultry vocals spell out an eerie lovesong: “Love is not a crime/ Blood is like wine/ Stay and be mine/ My valentine.” Lead single “Miss Negativity” has some pretty simple riffs and a straightforward hook, but the track has an undeniable smoothness and swagger. The synthesizers are spaced out and futuristic, with a wonderfully punchy snare and a catchy hook to boot. “Gossip” brings more of Brooks and Kavanaugh’s trademark eeriness, with spooky, shrill synths and booming percussion dominating the hook, while a gliding keyboard riff and curtailed bass tones hold the verse together. Mentions of monsters and other creepy images pervade the lyrics, which spell out Kvanaugh’s frustration with outlandish rumors.
The tracks “Misery Go Round” and “The Creepshow” are perhaps the weakest on the record. The former has some decent contrast between its muted bass and shrill synthesizers, but it’s nothing special, as Kavanaugh and Brooks sing and grumble about being stuck in a cycle of hardship. And the latter, while somewhat creepy, also feels a bit corny (“Welcome to the creepshow” doesn’t really land the same as the duo’s more clever lines), and it’s sonically pretty flat.
Luckily, Night Club pull things together for a delightfully dark final two tracks. “California Killed Me” is both clubby and dark, with a driving percussion beat and a grainy modulated bass. “Cause I’m a victim of this twisted fantasy/ And I’m addicted to the dark inside of me” sings Kavanaugh at the chorus, as she seems to lament the struggles that come with making it on the West Coast.
“Civil War” is the last thing listeners will hear before the lullaby ends and their slumber begins; perhaps it’s no coincidence that the track’s techno synth harkens back to Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams.” It’s upbeat but dark and ominous, as Kavanaugh seems to be grappling with the sadness that holds her back from the things she wants in life, questioning “Maybe I’m happiest when I’m sad/ Is it bad?”
Die Die Lullaby lives up to its oxymoronic title, as Night Club pair elements of club and pop music alongside punk and horror influences. Brooks and Kavanaugh’s eerie spin on nursery rhymes and childlike wonder conjures up feelings of creeping euphoria, and their distinct ’80s techno style evokes memories of horror’s Golden Age, when films like A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Shining graced the big screen. All in all, it’s an adventurous new record from a duo whose sound is anything but ordinary.