It’s ironic that I write a review for Athens, Georgia-based dance duo I Am the World Trade Center’s third full-length, The Cover Up, on the anniversary date that made their name famous. Even more ironic, however, is what the record reflects: a break-up between band members Amy Dykes and Dan Geller, a romantic dissolution symbolic of the fallen towers three years ago.
Metaphors aside, the duo has produced another round of engaging dance-pop songs, remarkable in their ability to attract ears and minds equally. As lead vocalist, Dykes yearns her way through sprightly beats and synthy rhythms, leaving catchy choruses echoing for days.
It’s this voice that makes the tracks, many of which are built on the framework of New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle,” come alive; it’s a marriage of sounds so convincing it can’t be anyone else, even when they cover the Jam’s “Going Underground” in what proves to be an album highlight (and what could become a stellar Gap commercial).
And since the album’s stationed in Splitsville, the writing gets a nice boost of sardonic phrasing and tender longing. Although it’s far from a concept album, songs like “Love Tragedy,” “Different Stories” and “His ‘n’ Hers” couple Dykes’s aching croon with intelligence and wit, revitalizing the tired cut-and-paste dance formula by adding a healthy dose of emotion and sincerity.
But this juxtaposition — human warmth against icy electronics, (wo)man vs. machine — is hardly new, however fresh it may be. The effect is one of nostalgia; I challenge anyone to listen to any of the twelve tracks here and not get the insatiable urge to throw on the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me?” immediately afterward.
Aesthetically, there are also traces of Everything but the Girl’s Walking Wounded and countless others that have found inspiration in the ashes of implosion (The White Album, Rumors, the White Stripes). Firm believers that love and loss are the greatest sources of art, Geller and Dykes keep their musical chemistry bubbling with creative spirit, even when the title says it all: It’s just a cover-up.