Black Kids — “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You”

Released: 4.7.08

Peak: Did not chart

One upside of returning to amateur rockcrit status in late 2006 was that I no longer had to track those convolutions of taste that the internet had accelerated. “Official” mixtapes, mp3 leaks, and widely circulated demos made everybody a potential insider, democratizing the sour one-upsmanship that’s always poisoned pop criticism. Now anyone so inclined could complain that the commercial release of Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine wanly insulted its leaked predecessor. And anyone willing to scour the web for alternate versions was likely so inclined, given the obsessive collector’s innate Gnostic prejudice in favor of the obscure over the widely available.

The most inexplicable backlash of ’em all met these bright, race- and gender-mixed Jacksonville power-poppers. Their self-released demo EP had been gleefully received online. A year later, the Black Kids released Partie Traumatic, and their former boosters at Pitchfork posted a photo of sad puppies apologizing and a 3.3 rating in lieu of a review. What happened? Did someone mix them up with the Cold War Kids? Was Bernard Butler that shitty a producer? The print press was happy with the finished album; pans emerged from websites known only to the snooty aggregators at Metacritic. With no real explanation of the about face, we were left to assume the default narrative — the “industry” had fucked things up (again).

I’d heard and enjoyed the demo of “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You,” but it sounded like just that, swamped in indiscriminate reverb, with popgun drums weirdly mis-mixed. The Butler-helmed version fixes all that, and offers more prominent fake-funk guitar, which nicely compliments those background cheerleaders shouting “Dance! Dance! Dance!” like they were auditioning for the Go! Team. But as with the original, the selling point (or dealbreaker) is Reggie Youngblood’s devious gender-fucking and refusal to follow his crush’s commands with platonic obedience. Youngblood’s “You are the girl that I’ve been dreaming of ever since I was a little girl” is pure pick-up line, just as the androgyny of real-live British New Wavers in the ’80s had been. As such, he’s sure to disappoint those new wave girls who thought Robert Smith was pouting in earnest, not to mention those boys in mascara who thought imitating Robert Smith was a good way to score with new wave girls. Well, they had to learn sometime.

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