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Music Review: New Politics at DC’s 9:30 Club

Written By | Jan 15, 2015

WASHINGTON, January 15, 2015 – From the moment New Politics stepped on stage at the 9:30 Club in a flash of light, everything that followed during their set happened in a burst. It might be something that’s expected of a pop band these days. But in their recent appearance here, New Politics seemed to take everything involving what they play to the most literal on stage.

And they do keep things moving during their set. In their live performances, none of their songs ever seem to breach the four minute barrier, just in case someone in the audience might get bored or deem a single bar of music superfluous or unnecessary. It’s almost as if New Politics spent the three years between their two albums attempting to define pop/rock, resulting in their current look and approach.

New Politics has developed a very stylized and polished sound, whether you hear them live or experience them on CD, as they do an excellent job replicating their stage presence on their recordings.

The fact that they instinctively play fast and loose certainly helps. Every song they play, especially the ones off A Bad Girl in Harlem, feels like they should have a chorus of a dozen or more people rhythmically clapping in background. The band captures the pure, infectious, rhythmic world that pop/rock can inhabit and encourages everyone to join along with them as they bounce around on stage like pinballs liberated from the constraints of their machines.

What can always get lost though—something even truer the older a band gets—is what it took New Politics to get themselves to the band we see on stage. Influences that may have forced them to become a band in the first place, or styles they experimented with and jettisoned in the past have been replace by a more cohesive and populist sound.

True, most bands never quite forget where they’ve been, at least in their own minds. But that’s hardly ever relayed to the audience in current performances, simply because that’s not who and what he band is now.

This is a major reason why bands usually want to play their newest material on the road, something that can clash with some in the audience who feel they have to suffer through the band’s latest “experiments” without regard to drew them to this music to begin with.

Thanksfully, this isn’t the case with those irrepressible goofballs that charmingly make up New Politics.

What this band regards as pop is the vast expanse of “popular music” instead of the narrower sense of the word among “pop” devotees. As a result, listening to the music of New Politics it’s easy to imagine that everything they’ve experienced is being thrown against the wall to see what sticks. Yet all this seeming chaos occurs within a recognizably glossy package.

For example, when they play songs from their self-titled first album, the live versions seem to take on the form of a mixture of ‘90s pop hip-hop and late ‘90s nu-metal, capturing the never quite true rap-rock hybrid format closer than any of the bands of that era. It’s a lot harder to do live than it was on that album, but they still manage to pull it off.

These moments combined with the sped-up core of their modern synth-rock sound can cause some fairly awkward moments, however. That’s not because something is skewed in the performance. It’s simply due to the fact that we’re hearing three Danish guys who are so damn serious about being fun that it almost gets in the way on occasion. They probably grasp how ridiculous some of this might sound on paper, but they do everything with such conviction that none of it really matters in the end.

New Politics in some ways projects a lack of self-awareness regarding the way they play, but it’s all done with a knowing wink. They’re keenly aware of their roots are and embrace that to its fullest without having to apologize for trying to be a perfect pop band as they define it. And never mind the insane trappings some bands with similar aspirations fall in to when trying pigeonhole themselves.

In short, New Politics is a band that goes out of their way not to limit their live show in any way. What would the point be anyway? Their fans like them just the way they are.

Stephen Bradley

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional writer. He grew up in the Washington DC area and has been embedded in the local music scene for years. Currently he lives in Vienna, VA. He enjoys bands that have been broken up for at least a decade.