Album review: Dance Party's 'Touch'

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Thursday, January 6, 2011; 4:11 PM


Kindred spirits: Prince, Def Leppard, the Cars

Show: With Wallpaper, K-Flay, Ra Ra Rasputin and Lowercaseletters on Friday at the 9:30 Club. Show starts at 8 p.m. 202-265-0930. $15.

"I'll teach the secret art/Of how to forget," offers the Dance Party frontman Mick Coogan on "Touch," the D.C. band's second full-length release. He's talking about heartbreak, not music. Coogan and his pop-savvy cohorts appear not to have forgotten any sound they ever heard, especially if it was from the 1980s. A former English teacher who's fluent in falsetto, the vocalist seems to have learned even spelling from '80s pop: That "secret art" song is titled "If U Can."

"Touch" was recorded in Los Angeles, and its tales of snaky hips and slippery hearts have a vintage Sunset Strip vibe. The group deftly balances synth-pop keyboards and pop-metal guitars, while Coogan's vocal inspirations flit assuredly from Prince to Jon Bon Jovi, with hints of Ric Ocasek. Add triumphant "heys!" and arena-filling choruses, and such funk-rock romps as "Hush" sound like guaranteed hits.

Or rather, they sound as if their success would have been guaranteed in 1983. The Dance Party has mastered the classics, but hasn't determined how to drag them into the present. A little cheesy and more than a bit calculated, "Touch" lacks a something every great dance party needs: spontaneity.

- Mark Jenkins

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