There are a lot of dancepunk acts in greater North America and the UK. A lot. In fact, it’s become increasingly difficult to distinguish between disco hi-hat beats and squealing frontmen and women, who have also become increasingly indistinguishable from each other. That’s partially what makes it such an appealing genre; it’s sexy and sexually ambiguous, raw, yet embraces the effeminate. It’s a style of music designed for writhing in tight pants, and when you see a show put on by any of these slithering, hopping post-punksters, you’ll feel compelled to do just that. That said, you can only have a few dancepunk albums in your personal collection before it really gets redundant.
Vancouver’s You Say Party! We Say Die! is easy to write off as just another band overdoing it on the hi-hat and sexually charged yelps, but dang it all, they’re just so good at it. Their interplay of scratchy guitar riffs, moody organ and rubber band basslines around Devon Clifford’s hyperactive beats is nothing if not hipster jeans tight and dangerously catchy, not to mention melodically memorable, which is a quality that will set them apart from a good many of their peers from the get-go.
Lose All Time, the band’s second album, shows a refined take on the genre, sophisticated in execution, yet losing nothing in snottiness, energy or sexual prowess. Frontwoman Becky Ninkovic yelps and purrs like a college grad version of Be Your Own Pet’s Jemina Pearl, with traces of Pretty Girls Make Graves’ Andrea Zollo and, inevitably, Karen O. Her cry of “stars burn so bright/ much better than neon lights” has an empowering directness about it, in spite of whatever the hell it means, making second track “Downtown Mayors Goodnight, Alley Kids Rule!” just plain awesome by default. On “Opportunity” she opts for a breathy purr during the verse only to escalate into an erratic battle cry in its powerful chorus. And “Teenage Hit Wonder” finds her opting for orgasmic Deborah Harry-isms, which sounds a lot cooler than a good many of the Robert Smith howl facsimiles out there.
There’s even a subdued and prettier version of the band’s new wave gyrations, which can be heard in the outstanding “Monster.” Near the end of the album, YSPWSD even goes beatless in the ghostly piano ballad “You’re Almost There,” an anomaly on an album such as this to begin with, made even rarer given that it’s quite good. Whether shifting the boundaries within their chosen style or abandoning them altogether, You Say Party! We Say Die! almost always comes out sounding awesome. Still, though, I stick to my original point. You only really need a handful of dancepunk albums in your library…as long as Lose All Time is one of them.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.