MP3 Private Lessons - False Alarms
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16 MP3 Songs
POP: New Wave, POP: 70's Pop
Built to glimmer and programmed to love
Some of popular music's most compelling stuff has been made by people in advanced states of arrested emotional development. Innocence (and the eventual corruption of same) is one of pop's most ingrained precepts, predating perpetual teenagers Chuck Berry, Brian Wilson and the Ramones. Atlanta-based electro-pop duo Private Lessons mine the same vein of childlike playfulness as French techno-whizzes Air, but where Jean-Benoit Dunckel and Nicholas Godin subtly slip in the sex, their Yankee counterparts keep things naive and, for the most part, clean.
Jesse Atchison and Darren Tablan, the sonic architects behind False Alarms, craft remarkably organic pop out of their shimmering mid-'80s synths, processed guitars and robotic coos. The duo's full-length debut begins with the burbling techno-burble "Emotional Shock", then dives headlong into the gleefully bleep-tastic adventure of the title track. If the Germans had come up with Super Mario Bros. and given it a catchy motorik soundtrack, this would've been it. For "Beach Blankets", Atchison and Tablan find the longest extension cords that can and drag their Casios out on the beach for what is best described as Courtney Taylor-Taylor leading a robot karaoke band through a re-tooled version of "Kokomo". Thank you, Mike Love, for the fiber-optic robopop you gave them.
Perhaps sensing that their saccharine levels are getting dangerously close to critical mass, the Private Lessons team shifts gears and sexes it up a bit with "Vacationers". The freaky retro-electro beat is custom-made for Kylie to wriggle her custom-made backside to, forever teasing by building to but never quite reaching its orgiastic crescendo. Their sound may be Air-y, but their approach is total Daft Punk: start minimal, establish a theme, and then just keep layering riff upon loop until the bag of tricks is empty. Their in-depth study of French electronica is so in-depth, they can probably tell their accent aigu from their accent grave.
Inexplicably, the two excellent, untitled bonus tracks tacked onto the end of False Alarms exceed many of the listed cuts; the first one's gleeful, Go-Gos-like pace earns it the right to be False Alarms' opening track, while the second's mid-tempo mechanical ambience would make Kraftwerk (or, failing that, Trans Am) proud. Top marks for these extra-credit assignments.
That said, False Alarms has its fair share of false starts. The promisingly-titled "Ninja Lover" fails to live up to chop-socky expectations, sounding like a malfunctioning Colecovision jukebox playing garbled versions of a thousand forgotten game themes all at once. The cute, digitized vocals diminish in their cuteness the further into the 16-strong song cycle we delve, and the vocoder has ceased being interesting since Cher and Posh Spice used them to spackle up the cracks in their voices. What could have been a solid ten-song album overstays its welcome by about 15 superfluous minutes.
Where their contemporaries seem intent on anthropomorphizing their synthesizers and FX boxes into sophisticated seduction machines or horny sexbots, Atchison and Tablan seek a more wholesome purpose for their artificial creations. True, they crank up the sex-o-meter once or twice, but their compositions are more the stuff of romantic teenage robots than android porn stars tricked out with all the smutty factory extras. By favoring the ingenuous over the ironic, False Alarms is more child-machine than man-machine, built to glimmer and programmed to love.
-- Steve English
False Alarms : Album Review
Left off the Dial
The Private Lessons have arrived, and they want to teach you that new wave can be beautiful. If you think that Air is the only duo of lovely boys capable of bathing their listener in serene and artful swirls of ambient bliss, you're wrong. With the Private Lessons' debut album, False Alarms, Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel meet their American match.
Although Jesse Atchison and Darren Tablan have the easy listening set of Air mastered in their own way, Private Lessons can also be likened to acts such as Stars, Barcelona, and Schneider TM. Moreover, these two boys happily break the curse of some synth work: tasteless monotony. Private Lessons' simplicity is well-paced and feels right in the title track of the album while continuous expansion is the band's virtue on "Beach Blankets." The duo doesn't stop at new wave lounge though. They attempt rocking 80's dance moments and playful sounds à la Self and easily succeed.
Despite the fact that this album doesn't sound as fresh as it could have in 1983, or even in 1998, it's far from stale. The Private Lessons are around to speak to those of us who will never get over new wave, bringing modern twists and turns and just the right amount of camp to keep it interesting.
Private Lessons - False Alarms
Atlanta, Georgia is largely seen by the rest of the world as a city with few...if any...credible musical artists. Looking at the larger picture, this may be well be true...but bubbling under the surface are some rather incredible and genuinely intriguing acts. Private Lessons is a case in point. The band's sound and attitude are completely out of tune with what one is accustomed to hearing from the biggest and maketiest city in the Southeast. Private Lessons is the duo of Jesse Atchison and Darren Tablan, both former members of the band Floraline. The tunes on False Alarms sound something like a cross between 10CC, Starflyer 59, and Joy Electric. Atchison and Tablan use technology to their advantage...keeping the human elements in their tunes firmly intact. Tunes are the central focus of any album, of course...and there are some truly choice gems to be found here. Heavenly cuts like "Emotional Shock," "Beach Blankets," and "Good Life" showcase wonderfully gliding melodies and vocals that are smooth as newborn baby acid. Cool stuff from a brand new band on a brand new label... (Rating: 4+++)
Private Lessons - False Alarms
No No Records
After starting with a non-descript instrumental intro track, the two-piece attack on "False Alarms" with robot voices and electro-clash indie rock. As the first release on upstart No No Records, False Alarms is sizzling. Private Lessons consists of Jesse Atchison and Darren Tablan, who were both previously in the new-wave Floraline, along with a drizzle of instruments. In some respects Private Lessons is like the stepchild of electro-kings Postal Service, but less polished and more eccentric. With electric drum beats, keys, blip-blips, guitars and random ambient sounds, the sixteen tracks bring you a little bit of everything from this world. Hence, there is a new wave element but less brazenly obvious. I guess having previous experience in this sound has helped Private Lessons to push the structure and not just rely on the formulaic. I'm somewhat surprised how well Atchison and Tablan's vocals sync together in melody so effectively. "Beach Blankets" is a long drawn out whimsical affair, while "Vacationers" is a hip dance punk number that is pure club material. In fact, "Vacationers" may be the best song on the record with a compelling underlying keyboard riff. "Good Life" has a more of a compelling rock feel with sweet harmonies. With a tremendous opening riff, "White Lines" only builds and builds the greatness. The record closes out with guest vocals on the exceptional "Untitled 1" by Robbin Wright and the pure new wave instrumental "Untitled 2." If nothing else I could see this record getting some seriously play on college radio, if not some love in the clubs.
False Alarms - Album Review
The 80s sound is back in a big way. While it seems like every hipster worth his street cred is plugging in old Casio keyboards and throwing those sounds in with current flavor, Atlanta duo Private Lessons make music that would seamlessly slide into the play list of early MTV. Warm analog synths, sweet harmonies, and boy/girl lyrics that would do any of the New Romantics proud are found all over "False Alarms," and with the addition of more modern production create a record that sounds like a sweeter and less serious Air.
The duo's sound would be a gimmick if there weren't good songwriting behind it. While tuneful pop songs are pretty much a dime a dozen, Private Lessons write songs that are strong enough to stand even if removed from the retro haze in which they are performed. Songs like "Good Life" and "Beach Blankets" would maintain their impact even if the band traded in their Rolands for Fenders and rocked out more than gently swayed.
Though they wear their influences on their sleeves, the album never sounds derivative. If anything, "False Alarms" sounds like a soundtrack to an unreleased Brat Pack movie remixed for modern consumption. Your fondness for music of this time period may color your enjoyment of this album, but if you dig asymmetrical haircuts and skinny ties, this could be the soundtrack to your summer. (Rob G.)
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