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Red lipstick. Ace of Base. Foam parties in Cancun. These are the things that XXXX is made of. With their latest album, Abbotsford quintet You Say Party! We Say Die! make it abundantly clear they know how to have a good time. Like we didn’t know already.

Lead singer Becky Ninkovic has upped her chops on this record, replacing chantey riot grrrl rants of yore with vocals strong enough to slay dragons. With the help of some glossy production courtesy of Howard Redekop (who has worked with the likes of Tegan & Sara and the New Pornographers) Ninkovic lays down sultry tracks that Karen O would be proud of.

With synths to spare, the album carries a distinctly nostalgic vibe. “Dark Days” feels like it could be on the soundtrack of a John Hughes movie, while “Glory” stands a lonely throwback to their earlier stripped-down dance-punk days.

Unlike in previous efforts, leftist politics take a backseat on this record. So does any semblance of d.i.y. charm. But with familiar bursts of energy and aggression, the band makes up for it with consistent danceability.

And in case you’re still wondering, XXXX is not a reference to the adult entertainment industry, but rather a cheesy code word for “love.” This is worth noting, because the lyrics in the chorus of “Laura Palmer’s Prom” could easily be mistaken to say: “my heart needs a lap dance.” Indeed.

Published September 2009.

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