- There was a difficult forcefulness about White Ninja's debut Guacala Los Modernos Y Su Electro. Not a stiffness in the band's musical ideas so much as an awkwardness at their seams, a feeling that something needed to give way to allow a more colorful beast to emerge. That thing was the heavy-handed, regimented drum pattern typified by closers "Fuck B," which quickly morphs from a riff on Blondie's "Call Me" into a senses-pounding workout, and "No Retreat, No Surrender" which picks up almost exactly where "Fuck B" left off and drives it straight off a cliff in a stolen US Army jeep.
With "El Alfa," the opener here, it's readily apparent that White Ninja are cozying up to no one else's definition of "punk rock" or "synth pop" or whatever you don't want to call it. These songs are entirely the band's own, deriving from mutant strands of various global pop DNA (motorik, Brit-pop, glam, lo-fi, 70's film soundtrack, Fad Gadget) hybridized in some kind of mountainside bunker and recorded in a single, drunken afternoon. Charm and pleasure are the key elements: There's an endearingly effortless and almost comically suave attitude at play here, one that elicits a grin at even the most conventionally "sexy" moments ("Melocotone" and its robo-New Romantic humpiness) and allows one to remain skeptical when Leo Marz's newfound croon is at its most vulnerable ("PCU," perhaps a heartfelt paean to Jeremy Piven?).
For the most part, Sounds Like Cocoon Fever sticks to a common, woozy midtempo with the beats hammered out of latex and the keyboards all tuned to squelch. The theme is taken up in different iterations, each loosening up and at some point breaking down in similar fashion, bruised electronics seeping out the side, the inebriated singer wandering off to quench a parched throat. Inspiringly, things here actually get more interesting the more they reach—in the twinkling, dream pop melody of "Patty Hearst," in the almost '60s-esque, gauzy pan-American/European pop feel of closer and standout "Hit and Run," in the oddly-sung but quite enjoyable "Regrets Are the Best."
With Cocoon Fever, White Ninja have shown that they can make an album that straddles rock/pop and electronic arenas and still sound purely self-guided and unfettered by expectations. The only remaining constraint they need to untie (and this is one of the few traits this record shares with its predecessor) is their tendency to hover around the same tempo and beat patterns. With that overcome, I see no reason why Leo Marz and co. couldn't have the world at their feet. Exactly what beautiful, strange world they're actually living in will no doubt be revealed at that point.
01. El Alfa
02. Inter 1
04. Regrets Are The Best
05. Patty Hearst
06. Inter 2
08. Hit And Run