Cooler Kids

Punk Debutante

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Kicky dance-pop in the tradition of Pizzicato Five, Fantastic Plastic Machine, and Deee-Lite, Cooler Kids grab from disco, new wave, funk, and the strutting, sheer in-the-moment-ness of the fashion world to energize their glittering debut with bubblegum and bright plastic. While the popular face of the group is newcomer vocalist Sisely Treasure and DJ Kaz Gamble (aka NYC's DJ Kazimir), Punk Debutante benefits considerably from whiz kid production team Pop Rox and Luscious Jackson ex-pat Jill Cunniff (who here functions sort of like a spiritual god/den mother, adding production and backing vocals). But whether it's Gamble or Pop Rox principals Freshmaka and Duke Mushroom playing the parts doesn't really matter when the music is this much smartly rendered fun. Brazenly two-dimensional from start to finish, Punk Debutante throbs as consistently as a strobe light, from the global dance fantasy of "All Around the World (Punk Debutante)," through the summer sweat of "Viva la Fever" ("Half-pipe freak, ridin' it sideways, California chic, burning the driveway, she's petite, fake ID underage"), to the breezy second-wave '70s disco update of the ballad "Sha la La (Wake Up Next 2 U)." Ring tone tie-ins with Motorola and a high-profile placement on the Lizzie McGuire Movie soundtrack help target Cooler Kids' audience, which is exactly that: 'tweeners with money to burn and brains shaped by marketing. Punk Debutante may never make a statement stronger than the title track's sassy "punk thru the door." But nor does it ever disrespect its constituency with cheesy filler. Instead, worldly grooves are infused with spacy synths and new wave organ (especially on the fabulous "Bali Hideaway"), plenty of funk-lite bass, and a truckload of suggestion. Sure, the titular letter of "E Is for Everybody" is just another in a song about the alphabet. But its Chic-style bounce and lines like "Keep wishing that this night will never end" make its motives more mysterious. This use of the language of clubland to address the concerns of Candy Land is, at first, off-putting. But it becomes clear over the course of Punk Debutante that the Cooler Kids exist in a stylized, plasticized, in-between reality that anyone who's grown up with Hello Kitty kitsch and cellular phone family plans will understand as being more tangible than the vapid teen pop of just a few years previously. It's fantasy, sure. But it's fun, funky, and admits its folly at every turn.

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