Dragonette is blessed. The laws of logic and music are useless around this band. On their second live date, they were already supporting New Order. Now, on their second album, these Canadian synth-poppers have undergone a complete reinvention.
2007’s Galore was built around the guitar, whilst Fixin To Thrill instantly trumps it by moving on to a mix of processed sounds and synths. Add some new fire in the band’s bellies and retro tendancies, and you are on to a winner.
Time and time again, there are unbelievable moments on this record, the band turning this into an artform over the course of the brisk 40 minutes. Synths are transformed beyond description, the vocals taken to new territory and the beats unapologetic.
The opening title track turns the screw a mere 22 seconds in, the first of many beat-drops arriving without fanfare. They mean business. “Fixin To Thrill” is a mean track, dropping in vocal samples and allowing some dirty synths to do the business. “And the boys. They offer diamonds but they’re givin the quartz.”
The tracklisting is well thought out, the strongest tracks arriving in sequence… 1, 3, 5, 7, 9. It’s a point and squirt approach to the order, but it works in spades.
“Gone Too Far” opens up with air raid siren, mixing in hillbilly picking and vocal drawling. It’s audacious, and a neat trick which is repeated many times- the word “incompatible” doesn’t exist in Dragonette’s world.
“Liar” is a triumph on all accounts. The most marketable track, it avoids sacrificing any of their character, instead applying the build to reel you in. The first 60 seconds revolve around some cautious synths, before lifting off as the track draws to a close.
The album also draws out the sexiness of this band. Much of this difficult burden lies with Martina Sobrara, the Toronto electropop darlings’ singer-songwriter, but even her vocals ooze sex appeal. Case in point- “Easy” is driven by the flat bass kicks, allowing Sobrara space to breath “Ask me how I never get with other guys/other guys with nicer rides and badass style/ooooh, easy. Hard as it looks”. The refrain is a thing of beauty, with phasing synths and histronics building up.
They flirt with their styling, too. “Okay Dolore” is a jilted country style number with handclaps, while “You’re A Disaster” is mismatched, a slow acoustic number that offers a two minute diversion before returning to form. It’s the album’s sole stalling point, and quite jarring in contrast to the rest of the album, but it’s musically perfect.
Fixin To Thrill is the best electropop album of 2009, and makes a good claim for a place in the overall top ten. At the center of their charm lies Martina Sobrara, whose voice and image are huge selling points, but the real wonder of this band lies in their ability to surprise us. And whilst some might say that Fixin To Thrill is unexpected, those in the know have been talking about this band’s potential for years. It has been realized.
Dragonette follow up their acclaimed debut LP "Galore" with this new set of records that sees the band taking all their influences and meshing them into a more cohesive whole. At the center of the record is still great songs, with undeniable melodies. It started with a... well, not a kiss, exactly. "We met at a Canadian music festival we were both playing at," she tells me, "...and then we screwed."
He: “And then I left my girlfriend.”
The musical fruit of this encounter between Dan Kurtz and Martina Sorbara was Dragonette, a band (we must at this point mention drummer Joel Stouffer and guitarist Will Stapleton) who make sharp, sardonically witty electronic pop music.
From the very start, the concept was, in stark contrast to the rest of the Canadian scene during that ‘Nickelback moment‘, unashamedly and unapologetically POP. Dan explains, “I’d like to write songs that at least I can remember. And I’m very bad at remembering melodies and the lyrics, so it needs to be memorable!”
Through a few strokes of fortune, their first public appearances were baptisms of fire in the deep end of concert-dom. Their second-ever show was supporting New Order at NYC’s Hammerstein Ballroom, followed by a US tour supporting Duran Duran. All after recording just 2 songs in their basement.
Dragonette eventually signed a record deal, and, like fellow Canadians Peaches (who they know) and Gonzales (with whom Dan went to school), headed for Europe. The band decamped to London with Joel and hooked up with guitarist Will (the British quarter of Dragonette), where they honed their small but perfectly-formed, all-killer-no-filler repertoire. Ruthless perfectionists, they explain that “We don’t have any spare songs. We write songs till they’re finished, then we kill off other ones. It’s not like we picked 10 out of a possible 20 for the album.”
The results are a dirty, hook-heavy, electropop album called Galore with monsters like “I Get Around” and “Competition”, depicting a world of guilt-free pleasure mixed with an 80s party prowess. Martina isn’t interested in writing, she says, “songs to get depressed to.” As Dan puts it, “It’s hard enough working on songs that are *fun*. I can’t even imagine what it‘s like working on miserable material…” The record has received praise from such diverse sources as the NME. UK dailies the Observer, Times and Guardian, online pop bible popjustice, and has garnered multiple mentions from Perez Hilton (whose showcase the band performed at during last year’s SXSW).
While they were recording Galore, Martina also accidentally became a pop star.when she wrote and sang lead vocals on the Basement Jaxx track, “Take Me Back To Your House”, and fronted the Dougal Wilson-directed video, cossack-dancing in front of a tank driven by Stalin.
After finishing the record they got down to the business of becoming a touring band, playing clubs large and small across the planet, with stops at the legendary Glastonbury Festival, London’s historic Trafalgar Square, Spain’s Summercase,, V Festival and Australia’s traveling Parklife shindig along the way. They’ve headlined in Paris, Barcelona, London, Buenos Aries, Sao Paolo and beyond, and are a strong draw across their native Canada, selling out clubs and small theaters from Coast-to-coast.
By putting a great deal of thought into their visual presentation, Dragonette contravened with the any-colour-so-long-as-it‘s-black cliché of alternative rock. “It’s so easy to wear the skinny jeans halfway down your ass, and disappear into your fanbase. The real challenge is to look the way we do onstage, and be that person offstage as well. That’s kinda fun. It’s also terrifying. But we wanna give a great show, and that’s part of it.”
Oh, the name? Nothing to do with puns on retro cop shows. “Martina called her iPod that,” says Dan. “I saw it plugged in on her computer, and I thought ‘Wow, that word looks fucking cool.’ Then we post-rationalised it and said it was about this female-fronted male power band. It’s a fire-breathing dragon, but it’s a chick!”
Martina beams. “A dragon in stilettos.”
Martina Sorbara: vocals
Dan Kurtz: bass, guitar, keyboards
Joel Stouffer: drums
Christopher Huggett: guitar
Museum of Canadian Music Musée de la Musique Canadienne Calgary Vinyl Music Museum Canada Museum of Recorded Sound Canada Music Museum Calgary Music Museum