Dance Music

Playlist: Stupid Songs that We All Loved

It’s easy for people to look at music today and claim it was better way back when. But they seem to forget there was a lot of questionable music back then too. Eras like the 80s and 90s were filled with tons of terrible songs, yet at the time, they were hits. Now, we recognize them are bad songs or “guilty pleasure,” but when they were first released they were popular despite how dumb they were. So let’s look back at stupid songs we all loved at one point.

“Achy Breaky Heart” – Billy Ray Cyrus

Though this song is now known as one of the worst songs of all time, it was actually a hit when it came out in 1992. Originally titled “Don’t Tell My Heart” it was first performed by The Marcy Brothers in 1991 but didn’t get much airplay. It wasn’t until Billy Ray Cyrus recorded his own version that the song exploded. It reached the number one spot on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs and peaked at number four on the Hot 100. And yes, I even liked it when I was a kid. It’s one of those song’s that’s terrible but has an earworm hook that burrows its way into your brain. It’s pretty bad with the stupid hook and Cyrus’ faux accent. For the longest time, we thought this was the worst thing Cyrus would give to the world. Boy, were we wrong.

“I’m Too Sexy” – Right Said Fred

Released in 1991, UK duo Right Said Fred earned a number one hit with this ridiculous song about being so sexy “it hurts.” What started as a joke between the two Fairbrass brothers turned into an international chart-topping single. The track makes fun of the superficiality and narcissism of being a supermodel. It’s another one of those songs that’s so stupid you end up liking it. You gotta admit, the opening line of “I’m too sexy for my shirt” is kind of hard to forget. Now considered one of the worst song’s of the 90s, it’s something most of would rather forget was ever a thing.

“Higher” – Creed

Creed is one of those bands no one wants to admit they liked at one point. Sort of like Limp Bizkit. Before becoming of the music’s biggest jokes, they were one of the most successful acts of the late 90s. This song, along with the sappy “With Arms Wide Open” helped their second album, Human Clay, reach platinum status eleven times. Kind of disturbing when you think about it. This pseudo rock song was inescapable when it first came out. It was all over the radio and the lame video received lots of airplay on MTV. Listening to it now, it’s hard to think how anyone took this song seriously. Frontman Scott Stapp sounds like he has a sinus infection while singing and though the band denied their religious connotations, it’s pretty easy to hear all over this song.

“Blue” – Effiel 65

There are some songs whose origin and popularity can’t be explained. Why the hell was Effiel 65’s “Blue” a chart topping hit in 1999? We still have no idea. With a generic dance beat, the most memorable lyric in the mindless “da bee dee da” the singer keeps mumbling over and over. The rest of the lyrics are baffling as the singer goes onto talk about having a blue girlfriend, house, and dog. Why blue? Is he literally blue or is this supposed to be a clumsy metaphor? These are questions we’ll probably never have answers for. Even though the song is terrible, you couldn’t but singing it whenever it played. As a kid, I thought the song was weird, yet would happily sing it in the car whenever it came on.

“Rico Suave” – Gerardo

Everyone talks about how awful today’s music is and how things were better in the 80s and 90s. But then you remember a dark time in 1990 when Gerardo gave us the travesty that is “Rico Suave.” Looking back at it, it seems like a bad joke: the cringy lyrics, the mindless hook, and the questionable mariachi band in the video. While it never hit number one, it did reach as high at number two on Billboard’s Hot Rap Track and number seven on the Hot 100. The song is unbelievably bad making you question who actually bought it when it came out. While it can be a fun song to take the piss out of when hanging out with definitely not something you listen to for pleasure.

“Barbie Girl” – Aqua

This is one of those songs that could only exist in the 90s. In 1997, Danish group Aqua dropped this annoying song on the unsuspecting masses. And it took off. Supposedly a commentary poking fun at the superficiality of the doll, it’s a song you hate to get stuck in your head. The hook manages to be infectious, yet completely annoying. Her voice is too squeaky, while the guy’s faux gruffness comes off as slightly creepy. The single charted number one around the world and even caught the ire of Mattel, who later tried to sue the band. When this song came out, I remember teachers trying to ban us from singing it because it was supposedly dirty. And then someone went and made the Ken song, which all the boys in class loved singing.

“Party All the Time” – Eddie Murphy

Hot off the heels of Beverly Hills Cop, someone convinced Eddie Murphy to get in the recording booth and make this stupid song. The sad thing is as dumb as it is, it’s really catchy. Part of that has to do with the inane repetitive hook and the help of funk master Rick James. Listening to the song and watching Murphy trying so hard in the recording booth, you’d think it was an elaborate joke. That’s probably what people were hoping. Unfortunately, it was all too real and even led Murphy to record an album. And it was a commercial success. Murphy tried to have another hit single in the 90s with “Whaazup with You” with some help from Michael Jackson. While Jackson saves the song a little bit, it’s more atrocious than this. At least it gave us a killer Children of Bodom cover.

“Ice Ice Baby” -Vanilla Ice

Vanilla Ice is a hard phenomenon to explain today. Looking back at his biggest hit, it’s clearly bad. It’s one of those songs hipsters like ironically. But back in 1990, Rob van Winkle was the hottest rapper around. This song, which stole the riff from “Under Pressure” and led to a hilarious Vanilla Ice moment, graced the top of the charts around the world making his international debut To The Extreme, a success. It sold 15 million copies and spent 16 weeks at the top of the Billboard 200. A short time later, people realized the song was dumb and Vanilla Ice was pretty lame. It didn’t help that Jim Carey poked fun at him and his lame dance moves in a great In Living Color sketch.

“Macarena” – Los del Rio

We all knew this was coming, so let’s get it over with it. The Macarena was one of those inexplicable fads of the 90s. What started out as an obscure dance song soon exploded around the world thanks to the stupid dance associated with the song. Soon the dance was being done at proms, weddings, and in your mom’s backyard. The best videos on America’s Funniest Home Videos were Macarena failures. It prompted several parodies, including a memorable one from the Animaniacs. It was so popular my school even made kids in an assembly do it on stage. Soon, the fad died out with slap bracelets, frosted tips, and JNCO Jeans. But with so many 90s trends coming back into fashion, maybe this duo is prime for a comeback. Let’s hope not.

“The Safety Dance” – Men Without Hats

Play this song for someone under 20 now and they’d probably wonder if it was a joke. Listening to the song and watching the weird video now, it’s still not all that clear if it is a joke. Written about bouncers trying to stop kids from pogo dancing in clubs, the song is baffling. The lyrics are weird with the odd yet memorable line “we can dance/we can dance/everyone look at your hands” while the music sounds like it was inspired by a Renaissance Fair. It’s one of the weirdest songs from the 80s, yet it was successful. It reached the top spot on Billboard’s Hot Club Play and peaked at number three on the Hot 100. And to think, for years people thought it was a song about safe sex.

“Watch Me” – Silento

Dance crazes are something the world should’ve left behind with the “Cha Cha Slide.” But somehow we all get swept up in them when a new one pops up every few years. When Silento hit the scene with “Watch Me” everyone from your mom to Jimmy Fallon started singing the mindless song. The track is nothing but different hip-hop dances phrases (Stanky Legg, Crank That) mashed together repeatedly throughout. And no matter how hard you try, it’s almost impossible not to “whip” and “nae nae” when you hear it. Even the Nickelodeon remix was catchy. I had to change the channel every time it came on so it wouldn’t get stuck in my head. It’s by no means good, but with a simple chorus and fun music, the song is hard to ignore even if you hate it. The track ended up in the number three spot on the Billboard Hot 100 where it stayed for six consecutive weeks. Thankfully, people seem to have forgotten the dance, but it makes me wary for the next dance craze.

“What the Fox Say” – Ylvis

This is one of those rare instances where an obviously terrible song turns into a big hit. Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis recorded “What the Fox Say” as an “anti-hit” for their comedy show Tonight With Ylvis. It didn’t take long for the video to hit Youtube and explode all over the internet. It was a song designed to be terrible and hilarious, yet it turned out to be successful. It’s reached platinum status in the States and peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot 100. The song is nothing but random noises and generic dance music, proving that the internet gets obsessed with the weirdest things. Since the song was everywhere, I couldn’t find the humor in it and just found it to be another mindless, terrible song. Luckily, the duo said they don’t have plans to make a sequel.

There are more lovably stupid songs out there, so which ones did I miss? Which of these songs is your guilty pleasure? Let me know in the comments!

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Playlist: Fads That Spawned Novelty Songs

The novelty song is a strange, unexpected, and oftentimes, horrible thing. They seem to come out of nowhere, become popular for a spell, and die out quicker than they came. It’s the type of music that makes you wonder if anyone listens to those songs once the joke is over. But what’s weirder than the typical novelty song is one about a fad. These artists took a popular trend and wrote songs about them. Some of them are an homage to the thing, others are poking fun at the trends. All of them are freaking weird. Trends come and go, but these novelty songs will always be with us, for better or worst.

“Teletubbies say Eh Oh!” – The Teletubbies

Remember when weird alien baby creatures took over children’s television in the late 90s? Teletubbies is a show we’ve all seen at least once and none of us can explain why it was so popular. Frankly, it looks downright creepy. Believe it or not, the show spawned a hit single. You read that right. “Teletubbies Say Eh Oh” is a remixed version of the theme song where they say their name. To shake things up they randomly throw in “Ba Ba Black Sheep” and “Mary Mary Quite Contrary.” The song actually took the top spot on the charts in the UK. I shit you not, this actually happened. After it fell from number one, it still remained on the charts for 79 weeks. Why? What in God’s name is so good about this song that it stayed in rotation for so long? Who was listening to this? What’s really freaky is there were probably more adults listening to this than kids.

“Tamagotchi” – Squeezer

People loved virtual pets and Euro dance music in the 90s, so of course, there would be an official Tamagotchi club song. If it wasn’t for the constant repetition of “Tamagotchi,” it could easily be about a lover instead of a freaking toy. The video shows the singer looking sad that she can’t find her Tamagotchi, which is represented by the toy’s weird, but cute, mascot. The song is kind of upbeat and catchy and it’s cute how they incorporate the blipping sounds from the toy. Otherwise, it’s a pretty standard European club song, just a really weird one. Wanting to get in on the trend, Eurodance group Daze released the song “Together Forever,” which has several references to the popular toy. This one is downright creepy with lyrics like “I’m your Tamagotchi/so happy that you love me” and “I see you as my new mom and daddy.” To make things worse, the clip features a bunch of little kids. Yeah… let’s move on.

“Where’s the Beef?” – Coyote McCloud and Clara Peller

We’ve all seen the iconic ad where a flustered woman lifts up her hamburger bun, scoffs at the pitiful size and says…well, you know the rest. Similar to “Yo Quiero Taco Bell” in the 90s, the phrase took on a life of its own spawning merchandise and more ads. It also gave life to this song. Peller’s infamous phrase is used as the chorus, while McCloud tells the story of this woman, just in case the commercial wasn’t clear enough. With the cheesy lyrics and disco-inspired music, it sounds like something Gene from Bob’s Burgers would write. Here’s just a sampling of the on point lyrics:

“WHERE’S THE BEEF?
(Young man, can’t you hear her call
She don’t see no beef at all)
WHERE’S THE BEEF?
(Call a cop and catch the thief
the one who stole this lady’s beef)
WHERE’S THE BEEF?
(Eeny meeny miney mo
tell us where did our beef go?)
WHERE’S THE BEEF?
(Won’t somebody end her grief
And tell her where’s the beef?)”

“We Know Who Done It (Who Shot JR)” – The Barron Knights

“Who shot JR?” It was the mystery everyone wanted to solve in 1980. The tagline comes from the insanely popular drama Dallas wherein the third season finale the character JR Ewing is shot by a shadowy figure. Similar to “Where’s the beef?” this phrase also spawned its own line of merchandise. Comedy pop group The Barron Knights, think of them as British Weird Al, took the opportunity to poke fun at the event. Sung to the tune of Gary Newman’s “Cars,” the group sings about the events teasing listeners that they actually have the answer. Just when you think the mystery is going to be solved, the record skips (intentionally). By the way, it was JR’s sister-in-law Kristen Shepard.

“Pac-Man Fever” – Buckner & Garcia

Videos games are common place now. Hell, your mom probably plays some mobile games throughout the day. But back in the 80s, the medium was still new, fresh, and exciting. The arcades were packed with kids looking to spend a lot of quarters and waste the day away. One of the hottest games of the time was Pac-Man. So of course, people wanted to capitalize on the trend any way they could. In comes novelty duo Bucker & Garcia with what is perhaps the most famous novelty song of all time. The upbeat rock/pop infused track highlights the 80s video game craze and points out the player’s obsession with the game, even noting he has to get away from Speedy. Unlike many of the songs on the list, this one is surprisingly fun. It’s silly, but it’s something you can actually stand to listen to once the joke has worn off. Others thought so too as the song peaked at number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1982. Bucker & Garcia tried to make magic again with “Do Donkey Kong,” but failed to be a hit.

“#Selfie” – The Chainsmokers

On the internet, it’s easy for anything to get insanely popular without any rhyme or reason. That’s the only explanation why people started talking about selfies as if they haven’t been around for hundreds of years. It got to the point where everyone cracked jokes at those stupid enough to take selfies daily or at inappropriate moments. Electronic duo The Chainsmokers wanted to poke fun at the trend too and released the annoying song “#Selfie” in 2014. The song is nothing but a club girl blabbing about the most asinine “problems” in between taking more selfies. Surprisingly, the song actually charted around the world and reach the top spot on Billboard’s Hot Dance/Electronic Songs. What helped it get so popular were celebrity cameos by David Hasselhoff, Snoop Dogg, and Steve Aoki. Some may not agree with it being classified as a novelty song, but it’s about fucking selfies with a generic beat. Can’t really imagine anyone listening to this track now, which why it’s hard to believe The Chainsmokers now having other chart-topping songs that aren’t one tiresome joke.

“Hula Hoop” – Maureen Evans

Though you’re more likely going to see someone hula hooping at Coachella, back in the 50s these simple toys spawned a craze. Popularized by toy company Whammo, the hula hoop sold two million units in just two years. It was so popular Carlton Products Corporation had to make 50,000 hoops a day just to keep up with demand. At the height of the craze, pop singer Maureen Evans released “Hula Hoop Song” in 1958. Making the act sound like a dance fad, the song talks about not getting enough of the toy and hooping at all hours of the day. It’s pretty catchy and actually sounds like something that would’ve been popular in dance halls at the time. It’s simple and gets the point across: hula hoops are awesome. Now, they’re the mark of someone trying way too hard at a festival usually wearing a flower crown.

“The Streak” – Ray Stevens

Aside from disco, flared pants, and The Brady Bunch, the 70s gave birth to a streaking craze. Streakers started running through residence halls and even outdoor games for a cheap thrill. People still do it now, with major consequences, but it’s nowhere near as popular as it was in the 70s. Ray Stevens highlights the craze in his 1974 track “The Streak.” The song pokes fun at the trend by reporting fake streaking incidents spotted around town. You can tell it’s supposed to be wacky with the prominent slide whistle and laugh track. Though the song is silly, it was a hit earning Stevens his second number one single on the Billboard Hot 100. It remains one of his most notable songs. I guess the current equivalent would be a song about the mannequin challenge.

“Doctorin’ the Tardis” – The Timelords

It seems Doctor Who only recently gained a huge following in the States, but it’s been a hit overseas for years, which is the only way to explain this song. Made by Bill Drummord and Jimmy Caughty (aka KLF), the song is nothing but the hook of “Doctor Who” sung to the tune of Gary Glitter’s “Rock n Roll Part 2.” You’ll occasionally hear a Dalek screech “EXTERMINATE!” but there’s nothing else to the song. This is another strange case of a novelty song scoring the top spot on the charts. While it only reached number 66 in the states, it peaked at number one in both the UK and New Zealand. In 2005, Party Ben and Team9 re-released the song set to Green Day’s “Holiday” as part of their American Edit project. It’s pretty bad; better stick to the original.

“A Nightmare on My Street” – Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff

Technically, this isn’t a novelty song, but it’s corny enough to be considered one. In case you forgot, Will Smith was a rapper at one point and Jazz was his DJ before he became a running joke on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The two cash in on the slasher move trend of the 80s with this song. The duo’s third single talks about Freddy Kruger and how he’s all too real for Smith. It starts with Smith claiming he’s not real and not even that scary. Of course, Freddy comes after him to prove him wrong. The rap is kind of lame and silly, but there’s still something charming about it. Smith makes references to Kruger’s iconic outfit, there’s music that sounds awfully a lot like the film’s score, and “Freddy” even drops a verse. It was originally considered for the Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master soundtrack, but the producers decided against it. Instead, New Line Cinema sued the duo’s record label for copyright infringement. The two later settled out of court.

“The Curly Shuffle” – Peter Quinn

The Three Stooges are proof that slapstick comedy never gets old. Everyone’s seen at least one Stooges short and probably laughed way too much. They’re bonafide comedy legends and in 1983 they received a star on the Hollywood walk of fame. At the same time, Peter Quinn released this novelty song as an homage to the comedy troupe. The song is simple; just Quinn expressing his love for the group, especially Curly and his trademark shuffle. Classic Stooges sounds like “Nyuk nyuk” can be heard throughout. Oddly enough, it’s an infectious song that’ll put you in the mood for some Stooges shorts. It’s surprising how hard they still make me laugh.

“Space Invaders” – Player One

While “Pac-Man Fever” was a hit in the States, another video game related song was taking over Australia. Written by Russell Dunlop and Bruce Brown, the song is about the popular arcade game of the same name. It attempts to give the game a story talking about how it’s up to the hero to save the world from ruthless aliens. The song is cheesy complete with generic disco music and some sweet falsetto crooning during the delivery of “space invaderrrs!” It’s actually the best part of the song. It ended up being a hit in Australia and reached number three on the Kent Charts. The duo released the single internationally, but it wasn’t received as well. It seems people wouldn’t be ready for video game inspired songs until 1982, the year “Pac-Man Fever” released.

“Mr. Rubik” – The Barron Knights

The Barron Knights return again poking fun at another 80s fad: the Rubik’s cube. This song tells the story of a guy who goes crazy trying to solve the damn thing. He even resorts to cheating by taking it apart and coloring in the squares to try to get some peace. He seemingly dies from the insanity only to learn the afterlife is full of the maddening puzzle. Similar to their other entry on the list, this one is silly, yet takes the piss out of the odd trend. Still, the song is better than the dreaded Rubik’s cube cartoon. *shudders*

Which novelty song did I miss? Are any of these your favorites? Let me know in the comments!

Love Gloom – Night Riots

Release Year: 2016

Rating: 8/10

Night Riots stole my heart when I saw them live with Blaqk Audio earlier this year. Their fusion of synth pop, rock, and electronic made their music irresistible. I picked up their 2015 EP Howl right away and impatiently waited for their debut album, Love Gloom. I was a bit surprised when I finally got my hands on it; it has a different vibe, mood, and feel than their previous release. It’s not drastically different, but there are some changes.

For one thing, Howl is upbeat, fun, and danceable the whole way through. But Love Gloom allows the band to explore other sounds and avenues. There are still insanely catchy jams like the popular “Contagious” and “Work It.” The latter isn’t Travis Hawley’s best singing effort, he sounds a bit too stained, but the song is still bouncy and fun. “Nothing Personal” is another catchy track blistering with lust and desire. Hawley has a vampiric presence and this comes out best on this song when he sings lines like “Numb yourself and think of me” or “I’ll be the king, you’ll be the filth/I’ll wash away.” It sounds like he’s trying to hypnotize us. It’s one of the most gripping and catchy songs on the album.

Aside from this, the rest of the album is kind of slow and melancholic. Previously, the band described their music as “pop gloom” and that’s exactly what it is. “Fangs” is pretty upbeat, but steeped in darkness and the macabre. The hook pleads “So stick your fangs, fangs, fangs/into me” bringing up images of vampires, albeit sexy ones. Similar to their other songs, this one also drips with lust and desire – it’s something Night Riots effortlessly convey in a good chunk of their songs. It’s a sort of dark romanticism they explore on this track.

The excellent “Don’t Kill the Messenger” might as well be their love letter to Depeche Mode. The shuddering bass, booming drums, and somber guitars makes it sound like it was written for the iconic band. It also has a brooding nature that plays into their melancholic side. The track stands out for its more aggressive tone and heavy hitting nature. Everything gets more intense as the track continues. It has a big sound making it one of the most satisfying songs on the record. Plus, it’s pretty catchy. After one listen, the song will burrow itself in your head.

Breaking Free” is where we start to hear the band’s softer side on the album. It’s another stellar track filled with lush tones and atmospheric music that makes it feel like you’re under water. The rolling drums that occasionally pop up give it some extra flair. It’s another brooding track talking about breaking out of a relationship. Something about it is warm and relaxing even though the lyrics aren’t exactly the most uplifting: It’s beautiful, yet haunting quality makes it one of the highlights of the album.

As previous songs have shown, Night Riots take great inspiration from 80s music. It was all over their EP and it’s all over this album, but they use the New Wave influences in a subtle way. The ballad “All for You” has this big, 80s anthem vibe to it. The dreamy guitars, far away sound, and relaxing melody makes you think of Tears for Fears, who they’ve covered in concert. To keep the song from getting too dull, the bridge comes alive, bursting with guitar and drums. It’s a soft, sweet song about being there for one another. “Tear Me Apart” starts with a weird, stuttering synth that instantly grabs your attention. This song feels directly tied to the title: the mood is somber and gloomy as Hawley laments the end of a relationship. Some of it is cliché, like the lyric “Where does it start/where does it end/I’m losing my best friend/tear me apart,” but it’s pretty forgivable. The track also has this ghostly vibe to it with ethereal singing, other world music, and a cold vibe infiltrating the entire song.

This slow, doom-laden mood continues on tracks “Pull Me Down,” which has a Gothic quality to the lyrics and “Everything Will be Alright,” which is haunting and a little eerie as Hawley sings “lately I feel undone.” Though the songs are slower, the 80s synth elements aren’t abandoned. Rather they play smaller roles in the music popping in the background or playing softly to make the song come alive. Instead of being the focal point, they’re used to add to the song’s flavor and sound. Listeners get a break from the constant wave of gloom with the upbeat “End of the World,” which starts with more attention-grabbing synth that’ll get stuck in your head.

The closing track, “As You Are,” has elements that are likable along with some questionable bits. The opening is too slow and sappy for my tastes. Lines like “Don’t change for me/you got nothing to fix/you’re not broken” end up sounding a bit corny. But what saves the song is the beautiful, symphonic quality to it. As Hawley sings, strings swell up around him making the song pretty and heartbreaking. This paired with the way he croons “Meet me as you are” is enough to give you chills. It’s a somber song; Hawley sounds like he’s at the end of his rope, which makes the final line “I let you down/ betrayed you” hit even harder. It’s not the best track on the album, but it’s a fitting close.

Love Gloom wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. There weren’t as many upbeat, catchy, danceable songs as on their previous release. Yet, it remains a strong, thoughtful debut. The upbeat songs are still there, showing Night Riots know how to make you dance. But the slower tracks laden with darkness and of course, gloom, show another side of the band. The album is a melancholic affair; something you put on when the sky is grey and leaves start to fall. Some of it is brooding, some of it is fun, but the whole thing is honest. That’s part of what makes it so appealing. Many of the songs may not grip you right away, but if you give it a chance, you’ll find a great debut that’s not afraid of the darkness, which we all need to embrace from time to time.

Howl EP – Night Riots

Release Year: 2015

Rating: 9.5/10

If it wasn’t for Blaqk Audio I wouldn’t know who Night Riots are. The band opened for Blaqk Audio on their recent tour and I fell in love with their catchy songs, fun vibe, and charming vampiric frontman Travis Hawley. Their performance was upbeat, fun, and made you want to dance. Though I already listened to a few of their songs before the concert, I downloaded their EP Howl as soon as I got home. Similar to how I felt after the performance, it left me wanting more. The only thing I could was hit the repeat button.

This is one EP you can’t get enough of. All the songs are awesome and stay with you long after the record ends. The opening track “Oh My Heart” is actually my favorite. It starts with this cool distant chanting that forms the beat of the song. Hawly’s vocals are pretty strong and have an impressive range. From his singing here you can hear all the charisma he exudes on stage. Something about the way he sounds when singing “Two in a crowd – I feel your desire” makes him seem like the mysterious guy in the club you secretly want to hook up with. The entire track is irresistible and introduces listeners to the fun ride they’re about to experience.

The infectious “Contagious” is one of the strongest songs on the EP and shows off the band’s sound the best. It’s a mixture of synth pop, new wave, and alt rock. This track starts with a weird wailing sample that makes you take notice as soon as you hear it. Thanks to Hawley’s low vocals during the verse there’s also a sexy vibe to it. His vocals come alive and vibrant during the hook when he croons “I am contagious/I am breaking down.” The song is a fun mix of rock, synth, and dance music that’s so grabbing you can’t help but move. Again, it’s another one of those tracks that’s so damn good you’ll be singing after one listen.

Unlike the first two songs, “Holsters” isn’t one that instantly grabs you. Its mellow nature has to grow on you, but it won’t take long. With the lighter music and Hawley singing about a seemingly bad break up it has an anthemic quality to it. The bridge, where the uplifting message of “Learn to live again” is shouted over and over, makes you picture people in solidarity pumping their fist in the air singing along. The lyrics seem to have a lot of references to fighting such as being battered and weathered and even the title makes you think of weapon holster. It’s an interesting way to address a break up and trying to remain a strong without being straightforward.

The band let’s their 80’s influence fly high on the energetic and upbeat “Break.” This is another track that begins with odd synth riffs, which sounds like someone stuttering. It’s a bit weird but definitely ear catching. Though it’s another dance-centric song with a strong hook that lodges itself in your head, the music is more reminiscent of 80’s new wave, which makes it more fun. “Shine” differentiates itself a bit with a rapid, thudding beat sounding like it’s on the run. Hawley’s vocal prowess is on display here as he goes from low to high range. It’s hard to describe his voice, but it makes you think of someone sophisticated and classy; like if Lestat fronted a synth pop band. After hearing a few songs you’ll understand how his voice is electrifying, sexy, and exciting.

The closing track “Follow You” is also cool and catchy with its slinky groove, but it’s pretty creepy. The whole song is about following a girl home he doesn’t really know. During the pre-hook, Hawley sings “I will follow you home/’Cause I know where you live/You’ll never be alone/’Cause I know where you live.” That is stalker territory. Even if you’re singing along, it doesn’t take too long to realize something isn’t right. He’s day dreaming and potentially stalking a girl whose picture he saw in the newspaper. He even talks about sneaking around her house and watching her undress in the last verse. That sort of shit is bound to get you arrested. It may be creepy, but you can’t deny how catchy and fun the song is.

Howl is an excellent EP from start to finish. It shows off the fun, upbeat, and energetic nature of the band. This is something you put on when you want to dance or just get yourself in a good mood. Their mix of synth, rock, and pop makes for songs that are catchy and memorable, while Hawley’s vocals standout as being charming and seductive at times. The EP is so good you’ll want to hear it again and won’t be able to hit repeat fast enough. Night Riots are a promising band on the rise and I can’t wait to hear what they’ll do next.

13 Above the Night – My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult

Release Year: 1993

Rating: 8.5/10

When a band wants to change their sound it can have disastrous results. It may not sound good and some fans will feel betrayed. But Thrill Kill Kult takes that risk with every album they release. Whether it’s industrial metal, swing, new wave, disco, or techno, the band always gives fans something new and unexpected with each record. Somehow they make it work without being cheap or straying way too far from their roots. While there are hints of the creepy, eerie sound they started out with on their fourth album, this record is drenched in club music that wants to make you sweat.

The thing I love about Thrill Kill Kult is they have their own brand of weird dance music that’s actually interesting and rarely repetitive, which is a big reason why I’m not a fan of EDM. And this vibe is found all over this album. Though it’s not my favorite song “The Velvet Edge” represents the cool, sexy, mood of the band. It begins in a fury of noise with lots of distortion and screaming. It then mellows out with some weird wonky synth that’s both slinky and playful. It’s also kind of sleazy, which fits in with the band’s attitude. They also let the sexy fly on tracks “Dirty Little Secrets,” which has breathless singing, and “Disko Fleshpot,” which explores various realms of sex and lust. These tracks show even though the music may change, their sensual themes stay the same.

The band throws fans for a loop with tracks like “Dirty Little Secret” and “Blue Buddha.” The former song has this groovy, cool-cat groove that’s made for a Jazz lounge. It’s really smooth and has a bit of a swing vibe, making it sound like something that should be played in an 40’s underground club. It’s not the best track on the album since it gets dull after awhile, but the different sound further shows how the band isn’t afraid of pushing the boundaries. The same goes for “Blue Buddha.” This one has more of a hip-hop/funk flavor. Similar to the other tracks, it has a great groove and is really playful with the lyrics. Again, not the best on the record, but not terrible.

The creepier side of the band comes out on “Delicate Terror,” which has electro pulsing music with synth made for a horror movie. The main sample of “Join the children of hell” adds a sinister layer to the track. Otherwise the song is drenched in excess as Groovie Mann sings “Hypnotic mouth talks on fantasy phone/Sanitarium Borderline/Gone today and here tomorrow…/Killed his taste for switchblades.” “Dementia 66” is also on the eerie side with ethereal sounds and unsettling chanting. Groovie Mann even sounds ghoulish when he’s singing. The whole thing sounds like something that should be playing during a ritual or sacrifice, especially with a weary voice pleading “Oh god help me” in the background.

Most of the album seems to be inspired by dance music, house music in particular. The band have always had elements of dance in their work but it’s represented best on this album. “Final Blindness” was made for a rave with the out of control electro music and blaring sirens that signal some sort of chaos. All that’s missing are the glow sticks. “China de Sade,” “Starmatyr,” and “13 Above the Night” all use electronic music as a basis and then throw in dashes of disco, hip hop, funk, soul, and a lot of groove to create an eclectic dance beat. There are also lots of samples thrown in and are mixed so well they become their own rhythm. What the band does flawlessly is mix and transform sounds so you’re never sure what to expect next. Not only does it make the music more interesting, but it keeps listeners on their toes.

Even when the band slows things down they want to keep listeners moving. On the awesome and sensual “Badlife” Groovie Mann sings “He’ll castrate your soul/and penetrate your mind” while the slick music keeps its mellow groove. This has always been one of my favorite songs: not only do Groovie Mann’s soft vocals sound sexy, there’s also this underlying creepiness to it with the distorted noises and howling that sounds like ghouls in distress. The closing track “Savage Sexteen” is another stand out entry on the LP. It’s pretty catchy and again has that cool vibe and slickness the band exudes. Just as with the other songs, you can dance to this one and admire Groovie Mann’s wordplay like “Sinderella pussy cat.”

Each Thrill Kill Kult album is a fun, unique experience. Some of the same themes, samples, and sounds expand across their entire body of work, but they always have something new up their sleeve. This album takes dance music as a basis and adds on top on of it with different genres, moods, samples, and vibes. Some of the tracks are creepy ala classic TKK, while others are sensual and sexy, a mood the band plays with so well. Even if every song isn’t catchy or memorable, 13 Above the Night is still a really fun album to get loose and dance the night away to. After listening to this record, you can’t wait to hear what comes next.