Kiss & Tell
Sahara Hotnights’ new album gives us at least three nominations for the “songs that would be hit singles, were I god” list.
“Who Do You Dance For” breaks out of the speakers first. This song crunches like granola. I would say that the sweet 80’s pop band backing vocals make it like granola topped with yogurt, but one, it’s actually better than that, and two, that’s a really stupid metaphor. So forget I even brought it up. Demanding to know the answer to the title question, vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Maria Andersson’s vocals are in the not-trained-in-the-classical-sense-but-filled-with-character box. They remind one of the sorts of tough chicks Milla Jovovich seems to get off on playing these days. That is, the Tomboy who’s still willing to give a little something to the real boys, if you know what I mean. The real boy in Andersson’s life, BTW, is the lead singer of the Hypes. I’m sorry, I mean the Hives. Anyway, it’s one of those cool opening tracks where you’re immediately pretty sure you’re gonna like the album, though. The dreamy but totally danceable “Difference Between Love And Hell” is a later highlight. Somewhere between them we find the infectious “Walk On The Wire,” which shows a knack for writing pop songs reminiscent of a less-polished Def Leppard.
It’s not surprising to read in the accompanying notes that the Go-Go’s were among the bands that, according to Sahara Hotnights drummer and co-songwriter Josephine Forsman, “inspired us when it came time to make the new record.” Beyond the cosmetic similarities — an all-girl band who write and play their own material on guitars, drums and bass — there’s a comparison to be made in their sounds as well. But the sisters in Go whom the Saharas resemble is not the danceable, basic rock of “We Got The Beat,” but the more late-period material. When God Bless the Go-Gos came out, I wrote of its “songs that sound a bit — to my boy ears — like advice for the daughters and younger sisters coming after them.” The members of Sahara Hotnights are the daughters and younger sisters I was thinking of.
Lyrics aren’t trying to be much more than suitable for shouting along, and succeed; exasperation, confidence and other agonies and ecstasies of love might be said to be their themes. Perhaps exemplified by the Clash rewrite “Stay/Stay Away.” It’s rather like meeting that rocker chick who you really want to date because she’s so sexy but you’re also kind of scared of because she’s so crazy.
But enough of this dubious psychosexual analysis. Sahara Hotnights have been getting a fair amount of critical attention and hype — good reviews in magazines like Rolling Stone (and they’re the cutting edge, right?) and Spin (ditto), appearances on Late Night With Conan O’Brien and MTV. Fortunately, they can be counted as those rare musicians for whom the attention and hype is rather justified. The material on Kiss & Tell is as entertaining as anything on the charts, and more so than most. It could come from a movie or sitcom about decades past–like for example if That ’80s Show had been good–at the same time as it’s a vision of nowness.
Call it pop, call it punk, call it New Wave, call it alternative — call it what you’d like, but you can’t beat it.
Hips. Lips. Tits. Power Pop.
Sahara Hotnights: www.saharahotnights.com