ere’s where things really start to get interesting.

For all it may lack in future canon fodder, the second wave of an over-hyped rock music movement always offers more than its fair share of guilty pleasures and genuine thrills. Scene-pioneering acts may have the unfortunate tendency of getting hamstrung by hang-ups over “art” and “integrity,” but for all those lemmings snatched up by major labels in the subsequent gold rush to glut the market, the absence of earth-shattering pretensions allows them to focus solely on the songs.

Names like Bush, Remy Zero, Everclear, Filter, and Veruca Salt may never earn their own 33 1/3 paen, but I have fonder memories of their actual music (and you probably do too) when I hold it up next to Mudhoney, Alice in Chains, or the Melvins.

Danceable neo-new-wave rockers like Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, and the Killers may not exactly be prime candidates for a future installment of Our Band Could Be Your Life, but they do exhibit the distinct potential to develop into career artists rather than one-shot novelties, not because of any inherent principles or intimations of a nobler mission necessarily, but simply because they seem to have better quality control than those mid-90s bands who briefly played above their heads.

Indie’s new fun boys may be reliably enjoyable already, but Elkland actually refines their shtick—any lyrical nuance, sonic abstraction, and nudge-wink artifice (that means you, “Michael”) has been utterly and completely drained out.

What’s left is a lead singer (Jon Pierce) who looks like Nick Carter, a band that looks so pleasantly noncommittal they’d probably be ripping off Sum 41 if only this was 2002, and a whole bunch of impossibly fey, ridiculously ephemeral dance-pop piffles that somehow wrap you up even while they threaten to float away.

“Put Your Hand Over Mine” sets the controls to “breathless” and “swoony” and leaves them there for Golden’s duration, a proudly wimpy, kinetically poppy trifle with New Order guitars that succeeds in spite of borderline-retarded lyrics about “my circa girl” (Golden’s really not the kind of album that needs its lyrics transcribed).

“Apart” is probably the hit since it at least tries (swishily) to rock, but the low-rent Pulp crossed with Cure captured on the hilariously “heartfelt” and sober “It’s Not Your Fault” and “I Never” are really much better, even a little (disturbingly) poignant. Here and elsewhere, Pierce proves himself to be the kind of faux-Ferry crooner who can make “talkin’ on the phone” sound as heroically amorous as any sonnet or turn “am I fun?” into a cosmic head-scratcher worthy of Descartes.

Heartache aside, “Everybody’s Leaving” and “I Need You Tonight” are ever-renewable resources of retro fun, even if the latter depicts a scenario nobody’s actually lived out in probably 15 years (hop on your bike and meet me at the disco, eh?). Of course, Elkland’s Xeroxed approximation of Erasure is so blatant and shameless, it even starts to invite that eternally crusty old-guard query—“why would I want to listen to this when I can just pull out my old synth-pop vinyl favorites instead?”

The answer is simple. In a genre where style IS substance, these boys are still young and beautiful.

Reviewed by: Josh Love
Reviewed on: 2005-05-09
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