Measles Mumps Rubella
f more people listened to dance-punk, we'd have to read regular reports on how the genre is dead (much like rock and the novel). After a brief flash a couple years back, it passed the way of electroclash, leaving the more pop groups quoting post-punk for the radio while the dirty dancers were left to re-spin the same old records. But, as with rock and the novel, dance-punk isn't really dead at all. It might be diseased, however.
Measles Mumps Rubella start off their debut album with the genre-standard groove of "Algorithm of Desire," but they only use the stylistic codes as a springboard for noisy explorations. The messy freakouts not only distinguish MMR from their peers, but they also add a type of energy not available in the basic dance elements. With that infusion, the last minute of the song tears ahead with yelps and burning coal, the train, and damsel on the tracks.
The rest of the album doesn't reach such brawling ecstasy, but it maintains a high level of craft through its 29 minutes. For all its reach, Fantastic Success turns darker and darker as it progresses. "Libra Science" is that moment when you suddenly realize you've had maybe two drinks too many and the strobe light is so not cool and someone you don't know just handed you another. While MMR's primarily influences are acts like !!! and the Rapture, they've listened to some goth, too, and their club is as scary as it is sweaty.
Maybe that fear factor keeps them from lingering in one place too long. Although they're consistently danceable, MMR doesn't stretch itself out much beyond the five-minute mark. Rather than building on feel and expanding time, the groups crashes in to tear the place up before quickly leaving. The aggressive delivery and dark atmospheres combine with the punkish presentation to make music that's simultaneously vicious and menacing.
If the band was simply about growling in the basement, they'd still be worth listening to, but not worth talking about. They elevate their status through their craft, structuring each burst of a song with care, and adding in the right elements at the right times (remove cowbells from formula, replace with shakers). Their performances make their writing look simple—which is, of course, part of the objective—but they also make it look painful. Rather than the illness-pain you might expect, they provide the abrasions (accompanied by the less artful puncture wounds, as well). Lucky for the listeners, the abrasions appear only on the band's skin; we're free to dance.
And ultimately, we can dance. While the album continually turns toward its own inner darkness, it leaves a bounce behind for us. So go ahead and boogie on, child, but don't look too closely at the faces around you. That strobe light's starting to reveal as much as it hides, and some of it might bother that overtaxed stomach of yours.