Girls are Short – Early North American

Girls are Short
Early North American

Mourn the days, faithful reader, when this venerable reviewer could look at a band’s name and postulate – with uncanny accuracy – the style of music said band plays. In 1999, when I started writing for Delusions of Adequacy, a band with a name like Girls are Short would hit my desk, I’d proclaim “EMO!” and almost instantly get back to playing Twisted Metal 2. As late as last year, some terrible band with a “the” in front of their name could be mostly counted upon to produce some sort of offshoot of garage rock. No longer. In the mingling music world of 2004 – where indie and mainstream cultures are closer than they have been in a decade, and genres splice and re-form with nary a thought of longtime fans – a band named Girls are Short can be a Canadian duo producing poppy electronic nostalgia.
That’s quite an oversimplification, mind you, but there isn’t a moment of emo on Girls are Short’s sophomore full-length, Early North American. Instead, Daniel Zabawa and Alex Puodziukas favor a mashup of electronic styles, ranging from pastoral IDM to dance-floor kitsch.
The duo’s biggest problem, perhaps, is a complete and utter lack of an identity. While advocating strict genre limitations is always a mistake, most successful artists have one thing that they are truly good at. As it stands, the two musicians in Girls are Short dip their toes into so many different sub-genres of electronic music that it makes Early North American an uneven and occasionally frustrating listen. Take, for instance, “Pinacoloda,” one of Early‘s best tracks. A quick, lively track, it builds on hyper-kinetic drum blasts and burbling bass. A female voice sings sweetly over the top. The touchstone is Dntel’s excellent album, Life is Full of Possibilities, but “Pinacoloda” is so successful that comparisons are unnecessary. On the other hand, “Sunshine” features cheesy disco beats, a la Daft Punk, and features a chorus of teenage girls chanting something so harmlessly irrelevant and silly that it becomes aggravating.
Further identity problems? See the spacious calm of “Exdegenerate” or the techno-hop of “The Natural.” The latter is surprisingly listenable. Though the “MC” vocal samples reek too strongly of Chemical Brothers-inspired arrogance, the track flows really well, and two Canadians somehow make their hip-hop sound credible. Elsewhere, the problems persist. “Mississauga Theme” is more naïve dancefloor disco with overblown keyboard lines, and cheesy beats. “Perfect Sound Always” is nearly the same track, slowed down.
There are moments of inspiration. “London Ontario” is gloriously fragmented pop music, and “Battle Team” is fragmented enough to sound great out of the speakers. Early North American shows plenty of potential but fails to capitalize on most of it. Girls are Short shows this duo knows the rules of the game just fine, but they’ve yet to pick a piece and start playing.