Private Dancer

Alive in High Five (Learning Curve)

Musical trends come and go, but straight-up rock'n'roll—the kind that defines itself by providing positive energy and eternal youth—will remain timeless. Private Dancer is St. Paul's answer to bands more focused on unique time signatures and exotic instrumentation than on having a good time. On their second release, the side project featuring members of STNNNG, Vampire Hands, and Hockey Night, among others, continues to show what makes the guitar so powerful. The 10 tracks spin past in half an hour to magnify the intensity. It may not be fierce as Motorhead, but it utilizes that rough-around-the-edges imperfection that perfectly complements an uncomplicated formula.

There's a wealth of influence on Alive in High Five, mostly from the 1960s and '70s. "Diane" effectively starts things with a strong Southern-rock feel, followed by the trippy '60s tone of "The Riders." The feedback-laden surf of "Weekend" and "Bajama Beach" bring to mind a Minnesota-style beach party, quickly replacing the volleyball and sandcastles with a drifting Mississippi and a stack of empty beer bottles on the weary "River's Please" and the drained energy of "All Soul Eaters Day." While there is an indulgent and winking presence, it remains gritty and honest through the band's direct approach, goofy backing vocals, and the record's swift pace. It's not capitalizing on ironic chic, but conjuring past influences respectfully. Meanwhile, it's easy to tell that the band is having fun. On "Into the Dark," it's easy to picture singer Alex Achen as a grinning, sweaty frontman a la Bruce Springsteen sliding into a Super Bowl camera, making of fool of himself, but enjoying the ride too much to care. It's a foot-tapping, catchy refrain and, while it may not re-invent the songwriting process, it's hard not to acknowledge its energizing power. 

 
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