Album Reviews: Night on Fire by VHS or BetaEverything old is old again. Look, Duran Duran did their very best to make music absolutely miserable back in the '80s, so why anyone would want to ape them almost 20 years later is beyond me. But VHS or Beta has made it no secret that they were fans of the materialistic pap foisted on a generation harried endlessly by Ronald Reagan and his cronies, so one has to meet them on their terms and try to be as objective about it as possible. So let's do that.
First off, the kind of whiteboy funk offered by outfits like VHS or Beta and Hot Hot Heat (who are entirely indistinguishable from each other) is a watered-down version of the kind you can find on better albums by Gang of Four, Talking Heads, Watchers or even Interpol. Which means that the fine guitar work on VHS or Beta tunes like "The Ocean" and "The Melting Moon" is overshadowed by a series of insipid beats and empty lyrics reminiscent of the '80s' worst output. In other words, VHS or Beta has the formula down pat: The vocals recall Robert Smith, the beats and bass lines recall Duran, the lyrics recall Madonna. Derivative city, baby! Louisville, home to quality indie rockers like Shipping News and others, deserves a better representative.
In short, if you're a suburban mall rat wasting away the new millennium on a neo-dance rock binge, then you might find good company here. If you're looking for something new, you're in the wrong store, pal. Get out of here as fast as you can. - Scott Thill, Morphizm.com
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