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BEST POP GROUP Minneapolis 2000 - Walker Kong

What seemed merely cute and novel a year and a half ago is starting to look like the next force for rejuvenation in local pop--though, admittedly, the brow-furrowed Walker Kong and his smiling Dangermakers remain as cute as ever. If rockers can't get behind the vintage organs, the oh-wee-oh female backup vocals, the tambourine, the bongos, and the Archies-like stage menace, perhaps skeptics can warm to Kong himself (a.k.a. Jeremy Ackerman). The frail-but-fervent frontman never strains his new-wave white-soul-boy croon, letting the group's great songs--part Modern Lovers, part Duran Duran--soft-sell themselves. Take the band's tongue-in-cheek tribute to punk-rock shows at the Foxfire Coffee Lounge, "All Age Club," a tune lovingly cast in disco drag (with plenty of indie-rock jangle) on the band's fine late-1999 EP, WK+DM Vs WK+DM. Live, the number is all breakdown--"Alright teenagers...let's work!"--but Kong lets the tune get whisper-quiet, allowing handclaps to keep the beat while riding on audience goodwill, plus band enthusiasm. (This is one group that can't play angry.) The tune, which rhymes "Selby Tigers" with "Freedom Fighters," loses some of its electronica production charm onstage. But these guys still make their crowds dance harder than any punk groups, dissolving its irony in sweat.

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