Any electronic record that pulls me in faster than a rumor about an ex-boyfriend coming out is sure to cause suspicion. “The city is calling on your hopes and your dreams,” coos guest vocalist Minty on the opening vocals, which are laid over something similar to the sound of a digital airplane starting its digital engines. “Midnight is falling till the skies ever bleed/ spill into the bright lights and step out of the sun/ this city is burning.” And then the album takes off like a gunshot. Everything after is a pulse, one that varies as the record makes its way through dirty dive bars, after-hour clubs, dark alleys, and rooftop parties.
This isn’t the greatest dance record evarrr. But it did something for me that’s more significant than I could have anticipated: it reignited my love for dirty, thick dance music. With the recent boom of “grime” overseas and the spank rockin’ attention its been getting here, in addition to the convergence of indie rock and electronica, it’s no surprise that a record such as We Never Sleep reminds me of the days that I went out to real clubs (not bars turned indie-rock dance parties) — you know, where nearly everyone was on ecstasy, the mirror ball weighed at least a hundred pounds, and you didn’t dare leave until the rest of the city’s residents were already out for their morning jogs. Granted, this also involved the occasional glow stick, UFO pants, and excessive glitter, but those things phase out with time. The kind of rise that wells up in the chest, though, when hearing tracks such as “Devil’s Kicks” or “Bella” does not.
In “Bella,” a song that demands us to smash our faces in and face our bass shy, the question “What’s your percent?” becomes “Whatsyourpercent whatsyourperceent whazyoperceeen’ wazshopucehhn!” If Drop the Lime mastermind Luca Venezia has a message with this record, it’s this track that confronts us with it. How hard do you party? Growing up in Brooklyn, Venezia and friends have been in and out of different genres and scenes that have influenced the track’s uncompromising, punching bass. Similarly, speakers begin to throb halfway through “Devil’s Kicks” in a way that makes me want to tear the grating off and jump into the amplifier. If I could fill a pool with a liquid equal to this sound, I’d swim in it for days. Once the bass lets up, Drop the Lime’s chants of “thick to the back of your skull” and “devils kick right to the floor” become anthemic in their own right.
“Triceratops” is one that starts off with a bland taste. It’s human nature to have first impressions, especially when listening to music. It’s easy to assume that this track will just fart along, creating the blah sentiment that tends to happen in even some of the best electronic albums (for you rockers, that’s equal to the excessive space-outs that Mars Volta members have when all the pot they just smoked backstage is kicking in). Two minutes in, there’s already something for your ass and head to move to in opposition, and just when you think the track has boiled over, you realize that the quick, sonic slap in the face that you were expecting isn’t coming. Instead, you’re ushered into “Turn out the Light” a la Massive Attack’s ability to bring a concept full circle within an album. You’re at the end of the night with “dust in the teeth” that’s “stuck to the gums,” asking yourself “Will I be famous forever?” “Hell,” sings Venezia, “what are you waiting for? When it’s good for you, and you’re feeling right, will you turn out the light?” Back and forth, he asks the question alongside wavering, feminine vocals, until they eventually blend into one. Much like the journey to your home — whether it be driving with the top down or shuffling through city streets just before lunchtime in last night’s clothes — closer “Skyline Fantasy” pays homage to that secret, personal sense of satisfaction that dwells somewhere beneath the surface of your hangover.
So it wasn’t the seedy characters that float in and out of We Never Sleep‘s eleven chapters that made me suspect foul play. When it comes to electronic music — particularly the kind you want to move your ass to — it is neither easy nor common to produce an album with a shelf life longer than about five full listens. It’s the kind of music that would make my mother throw kitchen utensils or my drug dealer think I want to make him my baby’s daddy. It’s also the kind of music to make your friends go “ugh” if they didn’t spend their formative years wearing far too much glitter, and UFO pants with packaged glow sticks in the side pockets. We Never Sleep is a reminder of those days when the night started off with caffeine pills and ended sometime around noon the next day.
This is why We Never Sleep is not the album of the moment, nor will it ever be. What it does, however, is pay homage in the way that Wolfmother does Sabbath, but all while feeding us the age-old “that was then, this is now” sentiment via lyrical cries to pick up, move on, grow up, and party fearlessly.