Talk to La Bomb
ne could read all kinds of things into a label as classy and well-pedigreed as Verve putting out something as wantonly ephemeral as Talk To La Bomb, but like Bush in Iraq, hipsters can see that coming a mile off and get their preemptive strike on: “It’s not about the melody when there is none… cause it’s all about us… and that’s all.” Well, er… right.
Not that the Girls don’t have their moments of chilly, glitzy, guilty pleasure. The overstuffed mess of “Problem,” spilling beats and synths like an overstuffed throw pillow, aims for the sort of je ne sais quoi associated with champagne on a Manhattan rooftop. The litany of sunburnt pleasures on “Tourist Trap” (“Piling up at the pool, peeing into the ocean, peeling off… losing at the casino, drinking wine and tequila…throwing up!”) revels in revoltingness with delighted schadenfreude. (Is there a word for a tourist voyeur? A meta-tourist?).
But the Girls’ schadenfreude, like their polyglotism, can all feel a trifle de trop; the casual misanthropy of “Sweatshop,” “Nicotine,” and “Never Met a German” (“I always have an orgasm when the tanks are rolling / Crashing through the borders / It’s good to be a general / Just tell these idiots what to do”) is unforgiving. And, worse, the music is a perfect fit. Sabina Sciubba’s sighing descant melodies sound like minute afterthoughts, the sort of thing children come up with when they sing to their dolls, but sung in the boreder-than-thou voice of a shop window dummy (great legs, nice threads, but pretty blank and sterile underneath… and where are those eyes looking?).
On the title track, this glazed-over, arms-length approach works: alarm builds gradually as paralysis sets in and layers of Sciubba climb on top of each other to her precarious, rarified upper register. It’s an apt testament to the sort of paranoid times that got Dr. Strangelove’s glove going, with a creepy momentum all its own. But it’s tough to keep the sangfroid out of your bones.
Elsewhere on Bomb, the songs are breezy to the point of vapidity, as though the Girls are simply too blasé to let anything stick, like the Chemical Brothers stripped of whatever soul they can cobble together. The effete French rap “Le Territoire” has the smoothness of elevator muzak and a bassline that Usher will sample shortly. Is this really the best that hipness has to offer? It’s enough to make one wistful for the gauche, louche, Eurotrashy lovergirl that sang, “Scumbag to earth / Let’s drink some tea and smoke some herb.” Bomb’s Sciubba sounds too impregnable for tea, let alone herb.
With her untarnished impassiveness and European linguistic arsenal, the new Sciubba pretends to Nico-tine inscrutability but comes up mostly vacuous. “Sexy Asshole” contrives, German lyrics notwithstanding, to be both airless and soulless, and makes you wonder who, precisely, the song is about. As Sciubba sings elsewhere on the album, “You address yourself in the third person / And say hey, you, leave him alone.” Well, er… right. Exactly.