Natalie Portman's Shaved Head

Glistening Pleasure

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Some bands dare you to love them. Or at least like them, or vaguely approve with shrugged shoulders. From the band name to the album name to the cutesy hipster photos on the inside of the CD package to the song titles -- "Sophisticated Side Ponytail," "Holding Hands in the Shower" and others -- Natalie Portman's Shaved Head figure to sound like they'd be somewhere in between the people trying to get into a DFA dance party and their twee cousins wishing they could be like them. Though in the end the most accurate and inevitable comparison point are fellow Seattlites United States of Electronica -- there's the same air of exuberant "Party! A lot! Yeah!" feeling to them, though less Xanadu-style disco and more giddy synth pop/new wave sass, something that the arrangements and distorted bass and keyboard shimmers do nothing to counteract. With that as the baseline the quartet acquit themselves swimmingly; if they're not going to challenge the heights of Dare they're working nicely within that line of descent, and songs like "Me and Yr Daughter" aim for a knowingly snarky good time, with references to hitting the town, self-proclaimed "art fags" and goofy romantic situations shot through with melancholy abounding. The downside is that most of the songs follow the same general template -- good for unity of purpose, not so much for showing range within their style, though as a result, songs like the power pop kick of "Bedroom Costume" and "Hush Hush" do make more of a mark, the former benefiting from a wonderful instrumental break. Meanwhile, the fact that there's a song all about beard maintenance somehow just seems so emblematic of the time and place that it's an instant nostalgia trip -- which might well be the point (it doesn't hurt at all that it's one of the best songs on the album to start with).

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