Bad Flirt – [Album]

Wednesday, 01 October 2008

If you break it right down, there are only a few subjects or emotional states guaranteed to connect with pop and rock audiences right off the bat: love (be it of the puppy, unrequited or physical variety), anger, frustration, journeys (either physical or emotional) and, finally, calls to arms against a larger force (specified or unspecified). With any one (or several depending upon the band’s ambition) of those themes in place, the rest of the composition of a given pop song is really just window dressing to appeal to one particular group of listeners or another. That’s what makes albums like Paul Anka’s Rock Swings so interesting; by taking the grunge and/or metallic grit out of bands like Nirvana, The Cure, Soundgarden and Van Halen, one can easily take any of those groups out to a jazz club and still have them play well.

It is that window dressing—or rather the subtle augmentations made in it—that makes Virgin Talk such a good listen. After the inverted (literally—it sounds backwards) build-up of “Pilot,” Bad Flirt plunges headlong into sublime pop textures—dual-girl harmonized vocals, simple-but-driving Ringo-style drumming, neat, song-serving guitars similar to both The Bangles and Sleater-Kinney and tasteful keyboard hooks—that never falter in these dozen tracks and at no point let listeners wander off course, because they never stretch beyond the three-and-a-half-minute pop song structure. These trimmings could be considered totally de rigeur too, were it not for the administration of them. In each song on the album, just as it begins to roll along easily and thus run the risk of fading into the background, Bad Flirt seems to relish in throwing an attention-grabbing gaffe into the mix—be it an unexpected hard stop, hymnal keyboard fade-out (as in “How I’m Spending My Summer Vacation”), majestic piano part (“Homecoming”) or marvelously sloppy, overdriven guitar part (“Of Mastodons And Men”)—that will instantly snap listeners to attention and keep them riveted.

Through it all, singers Jasamine White-Gluz and Laura Lloyd sigh dreamily in harmony, waiting for a reason to scream that never comes. In that way, there’s a certain detachment between the singers and the music on Virgin Talk. As the textural waves crest in songs like “Separate Rooms,” “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” and “Mad, Mad, Madeleine World” and recede, the singers remain the completely sane, even-tempered center that keeps the proceedings light and lovable. They never really attempt to forcibly assert themselves in these songs and so remain aloof above them; teasing listeners that want desperately to get in as deep and as close as possible to them but remaining nowhere near.

As stated, these are the elements of Virgin Talk that make the album an incredible listen, but the suspicious, cynical critic in me wants to know where the idea came from. Because the record flows seamlessly together (track delineating breaks are often absent), Bad Flirt gives the impression that the development of the songs was simply a natural extension, but of what? Future releases may offer the key.


“Mad, Mad, Madeline World” from Virgin Talk—[mp3]

Virgin Talk will be released October 8th. Pre-order it on Amazon.


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