It's telling that Dragonette
titled their second album Fixin to Thrill
, and not just straight-up Thrillin'
, even if it absolutely makes good on that stated intention. Notwithstanding the band's uber-stylish panache and the dangerously glitzy, fabulously sordid rock & roll lifestyle their music projects, there's no denying that the frequently fantastic fun and giddy thrills to be found here are the upshot of some serious craftsmanship. Dragonette
are, above all, pop perfectionists, carefully culling all the shiniest bits from '80s new wave (from Duran Duran
to the Go-Go's
), '90s alt pop (they bear a passing resemblance to No Doubt
, a more striking one to the sweet 'n' dirty electro-rock crunch of Garbage
), and full-throttle '00s teen pop to concoct an obviously familiar but still effortlessly modern sound to match their punky-spunky energy. But that wouldn't count for much if not for the earworm-y melodies this album boasts in spades, with almost every cut packed full of naggingly catchy synth riffs, vocal hooks, and guitar lines. Fixin
may lack a clear, massive standout to match Galore'
s "I Get Around" (the title track's a decent attempt, but it falls a bit short) but otherwise it marks a slight but noticeable improvement on the band's already-pretty-great debut, a more consistent batch of songs paced so that the highlights keep on coming. For the most part, the odd-numbered songs tend to be the strongest, including the sinuous, sinister "Liar," the goofy, superhero-themed "We Rule the World," and the irresistibly bouncy "Okay Dolore," quasi-cheerleader pop with enough (synthetic) handclaps to do Toni Basil
proud. While the band's tendency for oddball stylistic detours is toned down here next to Galore
's unscheduled excursions to Bollywood and Tin Pan Alley, the peppy banjos on "Gone Too Far," the kids choir breakdown on "Stupid Grin," and gentle cabaret stylings of "You're a Disaster" keep that sense of playfulness alive in a somewhat more integrated fashion. But the most striking and promising new development here may be an emotional one. "Easy," by some margin the album's best song, is an unusually tender expression of doomed, devoted love with a slinky, sparsely funky electro groove that drops out partway through for a rare moment of vulnerability from the normally all-sass Martina Sobrara: a sweetly harmonized, awkwardly phrased plea imploring her lover not to play games with her fragile heart. It's a total sucker move coming from these guys, an arresting, affecting moment regardless of whether you hear it as unfettered emotionalism or simply a top-notch example of how true pop greatness is to be found in the small details, a lesson that these crafty popsters have definitely taken to heart.