With the benefit of hindsight, it's actually difficult to pick out the most offensive aspect of 'new rave', a term that, depending on who you ask, was either coined or hijacked by NME back in 2007.
Perhaps it was the cynical suggestion that music with little artistic worth beyond its suitability to soundtrack Rimmel ads actually had some relation to the original rave scene. It might have been the lazy application of such a meaningless tag to bands that had something genuinely exciting to offer, like musical Bermuda Triangle victims Late of the Pier. Regardless, time wasn't especially kind to those singled out as the movement's frontrunners, as CSS, Klaxons and New Young Pony Club can all testify.
The latter's debut, Fantastic Playroom, was by no means without merit; 'Ice Cream's cocky sleaze became an indie disco staple, but album standout 'The Get Go' proved they could manage subtlety and restraint, too, which made it all the more disappointing that the rest of the record contained so much filler. The follow-up carried a non-sequitur of a title - the name of 2010's The Optimist's belied its more serious tone, and as much as you could hardly blame them for wanting to make a definitive move away from anything that might have been labelled new rave - however arbitrarily - the result was a muddled, confused affair that lacked its predecessor's palpable sense of fun.
Further attempts to make a break with the past are evident on NYPC; that's now the name of the band, too, which currently only comprises founder members Tahita Bulmer and Andy Spence. The video for lead single and album opener 'Hard Knocks' begins - surely pointedly - with a shot of an ice cream that's been dropped on the floor. Indeed, pretty much everything about the attitude that permeated NYPC's big hit has gone by the wayside; instrumentally, they don't need to strive to make everything else fall in line with Bulmer's smug strut of a vocal style, as it's now very much a thing of the past.
Instead, she's on relatively sedate form, leaving the band's tried-and-trusted palette of synths to take the weight; guitars are used sparingly throughout, and only for colour and punctuation when they are. 'Hard Knocks' is a subdued take on LCD Soundsystem's 'Tribulations'; its minimalist approach to percussion - something that underscores the record - is key to its lack of punch. 'Sure as the Sun' flounders in similar fashion; with lackadaisical synths and ineffective looped vocals, there's no drive, nothing that's going to lodge itself stubbornly in the listener's mind.
'Things Like You' is the template for the direction that NYPC should have headed in on this record; Bulmer wrestles her way back to the forefront with an assured vocal, and the nod to 'Gimme Gimme Gimme' with the fizzing keyboard riff is a nice touch. The glacial 'Overtime' is perhaps the record's highlight, steered by a throbbing, persistent beat towards a climax that mercifully makes good use of something that much of the rest of the album cries out for - harmonies. There's promise, too, on 'I Came Through for You' and 'You Used to Be a Man', but both sound decidedly undercooked; there's attempts at understatement, and then there's turning in tracks that sound like they're still in demo form. It's a problem that plagues NYPC; nice ideas are by no means in short supply, but the whole thing sounds in desperate need of fleshing out.
The peculiar inclusion of steel drums on 'Everything Is' does little to mask the fact that it's at least a minute too long. And whilst the deliberate, groove-driven ascension of closer 'L.O.V.E.' sees proceedings wrapped up on a comparatively impressive note, it can't really detract from the fact that NYPC have spurned the opportunity to make a real statement with this album. Ultimately, it suffers from the same paradox as The Optimist; laying the deadpan stroppiness of Fantastic Playroom unequivocally to rest is undoubtedly a mature move, but leaves a gaping hole where NYPC's sense of fun used to be.
5Joe Goggins's Score