With Erotic Reruns, Yeasayer surrenders almost completely to their most radio-friendly impulses, yielding a relatively bland record lacking the drama and mystique that made them relevant in the first place. Don’t get me wrong: it’s full of deftly executed pop hooks–and it’s probably better than their last record, Amen & Goodbye–but it’s still light on the kind of substance necessary to keep it in regular rotation.
Yeasayer came up in Brooklyn in the late aughts, garnering praise with epic electro-acoustic world folk vibes, reminiscent of Animal Collective, MGMT, and Grizzly Bear all rolled together. Think pseudo-mystical chanting with dense layers of synths, sitars, and hand drums. Over the next decade, they veered into proged-out ‘80s synth-pop realms, and then through a more stripped down electronic phase. Still, underlying their shifting aesthetics was always inventive and erratic left-field approach to undeniably hooky pop music. Like it or not, at least it wasn’t boring.
Flash to now: Erotic Reruns. There are essentially two types of songs on this record. Let’s call them funky white-boy indie pop and not quite weird enough off-kilter classic rock. The former accounts for two thirds of the record and comes in a variety of flavors, most easily understood by imagining what kind of advertisement their choruses might soundtrack. There’s a relentlessly upbeat Target commercial vibe in “Ecstatic Baby” and sexy urban cityscape car commercial feels in “Fluttering In The Floodlights” and “Blue Skies Dandelions.” It’s all pop sheen with none of Yeasayer’s hallmark eccentric elements. When those off-kilter moments do come, they’re primarily on the last third of the record, which probably contains the best and worst moments overall. The chorus in “Crack A Smile” features zany synth flourishes and bizarre auto-tuned vocals that overlay an ill-fitting classic rock guitar hook. It’s weird, but in the goofiest way possible. “Let Me Listen In On You” is probably the the most human and honest song on the record and maybe the closest the band gets on Erotic Reruns to capturing the dramatic tension of their best efforts.
Face it: the last half of this decade has been overrun with polished funky white-boy indie pop. It is to 2019 what acoustic guitars, hand claps, and yelling “hey!” was to 2014. In other words, it’s more or less run its course. At this point, it’s everywhere, especially on car commercials, so pretty soon, everyone’s going to hate it. At the tail end of its reign, do we really need another funky white-boy indie record?