07 July 2011

The New Division: "The Rookie"

This one has been long in coming … Playing with the name of two of their influences (Joy Division and New Order), The New Division, a Los Angeles quartet, released their debut EP earlier this year: “The Rookie” (11 January 2011 in the USA). Again, listening to this EP was the second time in recent months I was transported back to the late 80s, early 90s, when a slew of great bands were releasing debut EPs. With a name like “The Rookie,” a sort of novice, amateur-esque image may be conjured up, but these Angelenos are demonstrating some serious songwriting talent on their debut. While paying homage to the 80s (new wave, electropop, and post-punk), The New Division is not simply rehashing or stuck in the past, but treading in a new direction with it.

Though they play with Joy Division and New Order in the name of the band, their references in music are actually quite broader. Intentionally or not, they remind me of the 80s rooster of Mute Records (such as mid-80s Depeche Mode and Renegade Soundwave), a bit of the atmospherics of bands like Cocteau Twins, and even Germany’s Camouflage. For instance, just as Camouflage’s “The Great Commandment,” The New Division is able to conjure up a feeling of crypticness without sacrificing the electropop form or sound. Considering that electropop relies heavily on those “beeping” sounds, this is not an easy feat.

Kicking off with “Starfield,” this is the kind of new wave meets post-punk song best described as a sigh. Even though the bassline can be a bit aggressive, and the percussion a bit syncopated, the other arrangements keep a feel of tranquility throughout the song. Then there is “Devotion,” which gets darker and more ambient, giving into their post-punk references. The steady electo-bass line and ostinato drives the music like in early electro-industrial music. But out of the blue, “No Health” gets all poppy. Close to dance ready, this is not your run-of-the-mill cookie-cutter pop song; a bit darker, and much more unpredictable, there is something latin-esque about the arrangements. “Nocturnal” gets a bit rockier, into the territory of synthrock, while “Festival” keeps that sort of musical anxiety going, driven by its ostinato. What really gets under my skin (in a good way) about this track is how its basic underpinnings are very similar to (deep) house music. Ending with “Bucharest,” sonically this is the harshest beginning of any of the songs on the album, but this gives way when the beat drops to classically written electropop, with serious tinges of house music again. (And there is a hidden track that will leave you scratching your head considering what you had just been listening to!)

One listen to “The Rookie” and it becomes very obvious that The New Division has a lot to offer the electropop (and even the post-punk) world. I typically do not fawn over Los Angeles based bands, but if you are a fan of electronic music, manically in love with the 80s revival, or just simply curious for something new, this is definitely a band that you need to check out.

Track Listing:
1. Starfield
2. Devotion
3. No Health
4. Nocturnal
5. Festival
6. Bucharest

Keep up with The New Division at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter. Head over to their Bandcamp page where you can preview and download “The Rookie” EP.

Here is the track “Devotion” from their Bandcamp page.

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