Dinner // Psychic Lovers
Recommended Track(s): Cool As Ice
Little known fact about me: I like to dance. Even though my dancing resembles a coke-spastic James Brown Muppet with incoherent limbs shackled to a 5 foot novelty bottle of Canadian Mist. Even though it takes me a trash bin full of wine and a roll of Fruit By The Foot marinated in acid to even get in that wretched mood, I like to dance. If you’re the kind of person who just can’t seem to start a 1-3 person sober dance party in a small room, do not even think about fucking with this record. Don’t even breathe on it. “Dinner” is just another lonely sad meal for you and your dumb family.
But look. Even though this record makes me feel like I’m watching a naked Raiden give a disco ball a sensual lightning massage at an adult bookstore peep-show, doesn’t mean I didn’t spend at least 9% of the time kind of annoyed and often wishing this was John Maus. Probably fucked up and not very “serious music critic” of me to say but I’m sorry, this unfair comparison is happening. During every cigarette break, my thoughts couldn’t help but turn to Maus. Is he okay? Is he in trouble? Am I living the kind of life that is conducive to him putting a new record out?
Anyway. Psychic Lovers. I love it but it’s a tough one, man. 10 seconds into “Cool As Ice” I can almost hear my inner Beavis & Butthead grumble, “Oh no. Not this.” First annoying thing: his voice. A Zoolander word-salad, with chopped & screwed consonant chunks topped with a very light DOD envelope-filter dressing. I don’t know if I like the flavor, but fuck it, it’s lush and it’s foreign and it’s probably good for me, so I will allow it. And then? That chorus rises & swells like the serpentine hands of a gospel choir and you are Apollo standing in the eyes of God and he’s wearing BluBlockers over a John Wayne squint because you’re so absolutely radiant. Chin up, runny nose in the air, no one can say no to you and the cops will never catch you. Obviously this feeling is going to last forever, right?
Ha ha, of course not. Track 2 “The World” plays and you’re back to douche chills square one. This frustrating process repeats two more times too many (“Turn Me On” into “Gone”, “Wake Up” into “Holy Fuck!”). I want nihilistic, vainglorious disco, not “Fake New Wave from a very special 80s episode of California Dreams.” But you know what? Despite this distracting tension between cheesiness and unbridled greatness, I still give this album a solid “Yes” to “Maybe essential.” Because, really, the overall problem is that often Psychic Lovers is a victim of its own perfection. Where the record fails it does so because it’s a little too “nail on the head.” It’s so much of what Dinner was exactly going for that it ceases to feel wild.
However, there are these moments when the garish & trite meet flawlessly executed mood, obviously formed by the hands of a masterful producer, and it cancels out any possibility of this actually sucking. Even if the initial premise folds in on itself, there’s always that danceable X-Factor. Major labels have stables of sad traitors working out formulas to figure out what Psychic Lovers does naturally. “Kali, Take Me Home” starts out like a guy with a bee-sting on the roof of his mouth attempting robot karaoke, but it turns out to be one of the deepest and most haunting cuts on the album. I don’t know about anybody else, but that’s basically magic. Yes, Psychic Lovers clearly, obviously and sometimes painfully falls short of John Maus’ meticulous and almost desperate minimal synth-pop weirdness, but at its worst that’s all this synth pop record is: not John Maus. At its best, it’s a fucking tragedy that you haven’t danced to this album in a living room with your friends.