Dance-rock has been, by definition, a genre of pastiche, with the best wearing their influences the boldest and proudest. When they came on the scene, Kentucky’s VHS Or Beta leaned toward the Daft Punk end of pool where The Killers veered more toward glam, though it shouldn’t be surprising that neither of these bands could pull off a strong post-fame release. There’s only so much imitating you can do before you’re imitating yourself.
And yet, a band has to get bored with itself in order to get by in this easily-bored culture. The Killers did try new things in Sam’s Town, despite the predictably dull results. VHS Or Beta has done the opposite, making Blame It On The Comets mostly an afterthought to their own fame. It feels more like a couple of singles than an album.
It starts off Daft Punk-y enough with “Euglama”, which could have come straight off Homework without anyone noticing (good thing, they might sue). Then it goes in to more straight dance-rock fare, mixing 80s pop with, well, imitations of 80s pop. “Burn It All Down” succeeds the best at the old dance-rock formula: good beat, strong hook, memorable lyrics, feeling like a Talking Heads or New Order remake with pop just floating on top.
The title track “Bring On The Comets” works as a memorable torch song, one that could easily go on the soundtrack of a sufficiently quirky romantic comedy. “We Could Be One” is a melting of what sounds like Cindy Lauper/Debbie Harry lyrics with indie rock guitars and New Order bass. You’d think so many ingredients would make it less hip, but it’s one of the better tracks on the album.
Still, it all sounds less adventurous than The Killers at their most adventurous, less dance than Justice at their most dancey and less original than their originals were when they were being original. Originally. Blame It On The Comets is worth a listen, and several tracks are sufficiently body-moving, but VHS Or Beta needs to turn a newer corner before releasing another album. Otherwise it’s only going to get played at indie rock night at your local progressive dance hall.