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Monday, April 19, 2004
So I've given myself a few shots at liking the Killers, but for better or worse, I just can't get past the impression I had upon returning to my desk and hearing a bit halfway through "Somebody Told Me"--"Oh no, somebody's Franz Ferdinanded it again!" I would roughly define this verb as "missing the point of disco." Listen to that chorus--it's a disco progression, and even a disco beat, but rocked up in such a way that it loses about half the groove and a third of the energy of even a second-rate disco track, to say nothing of a good house song. And so then what's the point? It's an example of when you can legitimately complain about rock's co-option: when you just grab the tropes so it sounds like a rock cover of a disco song without learning (or intuiting) the actual compositional and technical lessons the other genre has to impart. I don't think you have to regard other genres on their terms, but I think it's much more productive to at least be able to do so, and then move back into your standard mode. (Thus the difference between rap pastiches of the 80s and when white kids actually figured out hip-hop in the 90s.)

But it's weird to me how many people genuinely miss the value in dance music when moving back into rock, and I think it's no accident that the best rock-dance songs have been electronic appropriations of rock rather than the other way around. When I hear a great house or rave song, I don't want to sort of shake my hips a bit, which is what Franz Ferdinand and the Killers make me want to do; I want to bop my head and pump my fists and twirl around. What rock and dance share is the emphasis on ecstatic expression, and it's at that intersection point that you can really cross genres. Honestly, Guns 'n' Roses are a better expression of dance-rock than the Killers, because there's a hell of a groove to, say, "Paradise City," which I just don't hear that much of in "Somebody Told Me." Rock expresses ecstasy via loudness and fastness, but a mid-tempo, mid-volume dance song can have just as much of an effect. (See innumerable Prince songs.) This is what rock can take from it. There's a lot of good, fast/loud dance music--gabba, jungle, acid-house, dnb, etc.--but if anything, they show rock how you can take that core trick of being energetic without expressing a lot of energy and ramp it up.

But maybe I need to give them more of a shot. I can see them being real good live. But that chorus groove just doesn't go along long enough! Lock into it, guys! The verse stuff just isn't good enough to ignore that chorus for that long. In the first 2 minutes of the song, there's like 10 seconds of chorus. Then 15 seconds of chorus, then 30 seconds of negligible bridge, then the last 35 seconds of the song are chorus, but by that point the impact's been so diluted that it doesn't really nail it right. And there's not enough groove, still.

Be pop, you bastards! Be pop!