The Bangkok Five

Who's Gonna Take Us Alive? [ESE]

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It's what the world's been waiting for: the love child of Hanoi Rocks and the Strokes, wearing Interpol haircuts. That's the Bangkok Five in a nutshell -- they're a Hollywood sleazoid interpretation of the new garage and dance-punk that came out of N.Y.C. during the first half of the 2000s. And since L.A. sleaze pretty much cancels out any other element in a band, the Bangkok Five on their debut album Who's Gonna Take Us Alive? are much harder and dirtier than their East Coast counterparts, which also makes them sound much more desperate and much less cool (of course, it's hard to imagine that a band comprised of dudes called Frost, Holcomb KS, Sweeney, Coatez, and Blanco could not be cool). But that doesn't mean that the B5 don't rock, because they do: there's an undercurrent of genuine reckless energy fueling the 11 songs (and two interludes) that comprise Who's Gonna Take Us Alive?, and they cough up some good riffs that are halfway between GNR's careening blooze rock and the Strokes' tightly wound guitars. Try as he may, vocalist Frost doesn't come close to capturing the essence of Julian Casablancas' jaded, laconic delivery, no matter how he mimics the phrasing or the melodies, but that's for the best: songs that are teeming with references to MySpace and Craig's List, The Teaches of Peaches, and girls' boxers really shouldn't sound cool, hip, or detached; they should sound grimy and decadent, which they nearly do. There's just a little bit too much trend-jumping, not only in how much the B5 cop from the Strokes, but in how much they ride the disco-punk beat, for the group to truly be as filthy as their L.A. forbearers, but even with this handicap, Who's Gonna Take Us Alive? provides more dirty fun than it would seem to upon first listen (or first glance at the hideous cover art, for that matter). As many fads and instant phenomenons as they touch on here, the Bangkok Five rock too hard to seem contrived, and about half of the record has songs, or at least riffs, good enough to carry them, making this something more than a record of its time: it's also a debut that shows some real promise.

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