Teenpop Licks, 2003

Last two times I tried to play the Becky Baeling CD (still in my house somewhere, though maybe not forever) I wasn’t hearing it at all — maybe I’ve gone deaf; more likely I was conned by her cover photo. Cooler Kids are about what I say they are; Kumbia Kings are better.

No way are those bikini-bottom badges comfortable.

COOLER KIDS Punk Debutante

Despite or due to both the sneaky drug jingle/alphabet-aerobics-class ‘tween hit “E is For Everybody” and “groove godmother” Jill Cuniff (whose Luscious Jackson were never this luscious), they’re more debutantes than punks, if their zipper-and-pearl global jet-set clubland fantasy is to be trusted. The flimsy synths’ slightly Caribbean ’80s Euro-r&b underbelly sets off melodies evoking sitcoms about smart working girls from the pre-disco discotheque age; suburban strip-mall sax wafts through; and some of Stacey Q’s sweet floozy bubblebrain (though, sadly, none of her abyss dance) shows up in Sisely Treasure’s cute sha-la-las and sugar sugars. Like Fannypack, they’ll hang out at the Knitting Factory until Radio Disney lets them in.


The dancefloor’s real punk debutante of 2003 wants the volcanic reactions of your white hot love all over her, even if only the devil-woman conviction contaminating and security breaching of “Corrupt” matches said Rochester, Michigan (as in Madonna) drama-grad hussy’s sleazily prone reptilian CD cover pose and bikini-bottom badges. From song one she begs you to push her to the edge and take her to extremes, galaxy-tripping about exploring supernovas at light speed, and doing it with more Taylor Dayne stomp than Mariah melisma. Tony Moran’s ornate throb frequently beckons her into the Latin freestyle territory he’s always known, but she’s playing a drag queen—the nasty-boy Italodisco posse yells in the Snap tribute “Snapped” (about going insane) are an even bigger clue than the rote “Diva.”


The best thing about the Year of Justin’s best boyband album is how its perfect dancehall-ska-accordion-polka single (featuring El Gran Silencio, Juan Gabriel who first recorded the tune decades ago, and an opening do-re-mi opera practice part) “No Tengo Dinero” is about being broke, but all five Kumbia Kings (Svengalied by Selena’s big brother) get their bling on like cash-money millionaires in the CD booklet anyway. Other good things: flying-monkey noises and guitar from Selena’s widower in the insomnia song, baby noises in the baby song, bird-of-prey noises and horn breaks in the Ozomotli song, Spanish guitar in the traditional song, Nino B’s Shifty Shellshock-silly rap in the NKOTB song. The quiet-storm mush is less fun (I don’t care what Usher thinks, “relationship” is a really stupid word to sing), but that never stopped Menudo or the Barrio Boyz, did it?

Village Voice, 11 November 2003

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