Buoyed by a wave of hype that has won them an NME best up-and-coming band gong and drawn them inclusion into the BBC’s very own much-hyped Sound Of 2011 list, New Zealand’s The Naked And Famous have been beneficiaries of all the right words in all the right places. To an extent, the hype is justified. Passive Me, Aggressive You certainly has its moments of brilliance, when the band’s euphoric electro catches fire with its dingy distortion. It’s this clash of the subtle and the strong — the passiveness of Alisa Xayalith’s vocal offset by the aggressive Nine Inch Nails guitars of Thom Powers — that sets tunes such as ‘Spank’, ‘A Wolf In Greek’s Clothing’ and ‘Frayed’, apart.
There are other tricks up their sleeves too. At their most arresting — namely on opener ‘All Of This’ and recent single ‘Punching In A Dream’ — the five-piece marry this boisterous bedrock of sound with shimmering, showgaze melodies that twist and turn as they weave themselves into the subconscious.
As the album progresses however, it begins to settle upon a retro-80s vibe and, as such, loses its edge. The boy-girl vocals, the euphoria and the poppy-synths all begins to sound a little 2000-and late. It’s as if The Naked And Famous have arrived just as the party has ended, the credits for Skins have rolled and the last sounds of ‘Kids’ are fading out.
No doubt the festival-friendly catchy choruses of ‘Punching In A Dream’ and ‘Young Blood’ will have their desired effect this summer, but it’s hard to listen to these two tracks in particular, without feeling they’ve been stitched from threads laid out by Andrew Van Wyngarden and Ben Goldwasser.
Closer ‘Girls Like You’ throws some LCD Soundsystem comparisons into the mix, and by the time Passive Me, Aggressive You ends — despite all that’s going on and despite a flurry of rather fine flourishes you’re left with little of real substance to grab a hold of and a rather hollow feeling to boot.