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B Boys - "Dada" | Album Review

by Michael Gusev

Who is the B Boy? We are all the B Boy. The band's new LP, Dada, is a sort of audit of urban anxiety. The album reads like a tour of someone's mental topography, cruising frenetically over civic frustrations, problems of authenticity, of your own transience. Lyrically, most songs are slick takedowns of basic human attempts to relate or belong or enjoy. (See "Fear It" if you'd like all of these dismantled for you in quick Agent-Orange-style succession.) The vocally shyer moments in the album complement this with an almost mystical punk edifice punctuated by golden riffs and breakdowns, as in the chorus riff of "Fade".

Dada begins with the "B Boys Anthem", a kind of upbeat overture showcasing their meticulously crafted guitar/bass hooks in front of a yelped rundown of the album's themes of "agony...suffering...identity...misery...euphoria..." The proceeding 12 tracks are a fleshing out of these basic pillars. It's more than just a laundry list of emotions, though. Fear, frustration, ennui, anger, anxiety, joy -- these are all discernible in Dada, but the songs have the sense of being too self-aware to be fully captured by feeling. It's an odd, claustrophobic fate that's all too familiar: the desire (and inability) to be possessed purely by any one emotion because that would be too quaint -- and because the B Boys are just too damn smart to be pure.

And they're tangibly smart -- or at least eclectic: "Other Head", the standout track from the previous B Boys EP, is an homage to bizarre 1989 British comedy How to Get Ahead in Advertising, a Kafkaesque romp in which a conflicted advertising executive grows a shrewder, more cynical head that takes over his body. The B Boys aesthetic does seem to be informed by (among other things) 80s corporatist imagery:  disassociated tracks like "I", "Fade", and the dreamy "Flatlands" (which tells the story of a round-earth theorizing medieval heretic) use reverby, ominous vocals to evoke visions of misty metropoli. Killing Joke and The Jam come to mind. Meanwhile, punchy two-steps with a straighter punk sensibility like "Discipline" and " 1 2 Reminder" meet us down on the sidewalk with driving chord progressions and highly yell-able hooks. 

The record finally comes in for a landing with the optimistic "Walking," announcing for anyone still concerned that "beyond the scope of meeting basic needs / unconventional serenity / to actualize one's situation / reaching potential has a tendency / through motivation..." I don't think it's intended so much to alleviate the woes the album explores as it is to universalize them -- as if to say, yeah, it's hard, but it's not just you doing it, it's all of us.