Moving Units | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Moving Units

Dangerous Dreams
Palm Pictures

In his review of the new Client disc a few weeks ago, my esteemed music editor deftly deconstructed the commodity fetish of the '80s revival, yet did the movement a disservice by implying that the electroclash trend was "short-lived" and New York-based. In fact, the worldwide (Geneva, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, you name it) stampede of '80s sounds exemplified by not just electro but also its slightly more guitar-based, nearly as disco-oriented twin -- "dancepunk" -- has only started to ascend. The '80s proponents have merely scraped the bottom of MTV2, Carson Daly and the Cure tour, and still have years to go before they are as ubiquitous in pop culture as, say, the pop-punk of Green Day and Blink 182.


One of the more likely dancepunk outfits to take it to the top of the charts? Los Angeles trio Moving Units -- whose full-length debut Dangerous Dreams rises to heights not yet scaled by the likes of contenders such as Interpol, The Faint, Radio 4 and The Rapture. Those other bands reference Joy Division, Gang of Four, A Certain Ratio and Tubeway Army well, but the point was lost, because those influences either never made it to the mainstream or have been long forgotten. Kids in today's malls certainly have no reference points for those sounds -- post-punk to them barely exists in comparison to the immense shadow of face-painted '90s techno, metal, neo-goth and punk.


Being from Hollywood, the Moving Units make it clear that hipsterdom is nice, but making a killing in the music industry and getting your picture on a Rolling Stone cover is much nicer. In other words, they want to "move units." So, tempering their angular dancepunk attack with the more mainstream disco-pop and what used to be called "dance-oriented rock" (think Blondie, Duran Duran, even Kajagoogoo) is a winning proposition.


There are no experimental noise-rock digressions where they try to ape Mogwai or Sonic Youth. Almost every one of the 12 tracks is a propulsive dance number that you wouldn't be embarrassed to shake your ass to any more than Macaulay Culkin would, because it just sounds cool, sexy and attractive. Moving Units motto-ize it as "desire/feelings/passion/fashion" on the first single "Available," and blatantly proclaim to be "Going for Adds" on the radio, a sentiment for success as the flipside to Client's "Radio" or Solvent's "My Radio." And they're right -- you haven't heard any dancepunk rotated on WYEP or The X, now, have you?


Once they break on the commercial airwaves, the kids will fall in line as they did with grunge or teen-pop. However, bands like the Moving Units might also strike a chord with the neglected Gen-Xers who now have two kids and an SUV but used to attend Tears for Fears concerts in high school. For them, the present is the ultimate flashback -- a right-wing president re-elected under a specter of fear and surveillance, an explosion of dance-rock and synth-pop bands with themes of capitalist excess and romantic alienation. We begin bombing in five minutes ...

Living Dead Weekend at the Monroeville Mall
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