Sound: Dave Sitek is a hipster king. If you don't believe the hype, you should because the TV On The Radio guitarist/acclaimed producer is one of the eclectic masterminds behind the Yeah Yeah Yeahs discography. Instead of recruiting his musical brothers in arms to make his version of Madonna's first record, Sitek grabbed a notebook and his synthesizer and started a funk-filled dance party in his brain. His solo project's self-titled debut is the invitation. Maximum Balloon will throw you off course and spin you around in a desk chair if you expect the raw hooks of TV On The Radio, but it will take your hand and cue the gyration if you prepare an open mind.
Layers of synth and handclap signals clutter the record's length of ten tracks, giving guest Karen O the urban foot-tapper she helplessly tried to create last year ("Communion") while drugging trance and 80s' pop and locking them in a bathroom together ("Groove Me"). The courting of musical styles and one-hit genres creates a tremendous fuzz, clouding the album but the teasing melodies and short and sweet samples provide enough breathing room to indulge. Such conscious creativity is what's made Sitek a performer capable of throwing everything including the kitchen sink and glow sticks at you without making you feel overwhelmed. // 8
Lyrics: Sitek is an earthy vocalist and even he knows the public doesn't want to be subject to his voice for more than thirty minutes at a time. Though his suave performance on "Groove" can steal your girlfriend (and your night poised for a good time), it's the supporting acts that push Maximum Balloon's tone. TV On The Radio bandmate Kyp Malone molds his very own electronic slow-jam on "Shake Down" while Theophilus London and Swede-pop act Little Dragon entice with a flirtatious personality fond of cat-and-mouse games, not locking it down.
The rotation adds to the lyrical thesis behind Sitek's debut as well; Maximum Balloon is an artist that doesn't need to draw a map to show its heart or thoughts. Instead it spews out lines a simpleton can follow while surrendering to a beat. To say it's a giant pounce forward is an overstatement, but dancing usually doesn't involve talking. // 7
Overall Impression: With pop acts exploring the library of electronic music, it's almost surprising to see Maximum Balloon not draw any comparisons. The take on promiscuous synth is similar to a recent release or two (see Franz Ferdinand), but the overall construction is a unique design on a boulevard of overplayed sounds. For a new music career's introduction, it's a grand success, but like most producers-turned-artists, the album struggles to clarify it's voice as it can't decide to go home with infatuated acquaintances or tip the DJ to stay a few hours longer. // 7
- Joshua Khan (c) 2010