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Kelley Polar - I Need You to Hold On While the Sky is Falling

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Artist: Kelley Polar

Album: I Need You to Hold On While the Sky is Falling

Label: Environ

Review date: Mar. 4, 2008

Kelly Polar's I Need You to Hold On While the Sky is Falling does unrepentant violence to every person, thing, institution, atom, and idea in the cosmos, conceived or conceivable, coercing them all into terms like "the All-Thing" (part of the title and refrain of the first track) and singing in eternities and universals. The world is contained in this album, whether it wants to be or not.

This is common. The musical perpetration of totalizing rhetorical violence should be a familiar move for fans of prog rock, heady dance records, and most melodramatic pop. It is equally the currency of concept albums and of the Shangri-Las when they sang "I Can Never Go Home Anymore" and "Leader of the Pack" for teenagers willing to correlate broken hearts with end times. I'm also reminded of the Human League introducing "Dance Like a Star," a contrarian defense of disco, by telling everyone "We're the Human League, and we're much cleverer than you." In each case, the world is (ironically) (and completely) shut out by being reduced to the singular purview of the artist. Many musicians are narcissists, and narcissism is violent.

Of course, divas and absolutists of all stripes are appealing for this very reason. Polar, if it's fair to speak about the musician rather than the man, is both diva and absolutist, playing both parts with the appropriate air of self-aggrandizement. Reincarnating New Romanticism and Prince, he does not drain them of their sex. Is it fair to suggest that violence – and only violence - makes this possible?

I Need You to Hold On has heaps of Environ's trademark production cleanliness, analog synths and acoustic strings. This includes the aforementioned "A Feeling of the All-Thing," which pits an out-of-time, vocoded mini-manifesto about oneness of "body" and "earth" against deviant dance pop in an arrangement that keeps pace with the melodramatic mysticism of the lyrics. Departing briefly from astral planes, "Entropy Reigns (In the Celestial City)" is a funky new wave duet that either celebrates or caricatures too much partying. Meanwhile, there are a few baffling tracks that don't seem to fit in, including the grating, overwrought "Chrysanthemum" and the proggy outro "In Paradisum."

There is ultimately something deeply off-putting about this album. Polar's singing can be cloying and theatrical, and his synth tones are neither subtle nor pretty. But I take these attributes as reasons to continue listening – none of the elements that are viscerally unappealing correlate to well-worn tropes of the genre (bourgeois electronic dance music). Rather, they read as risks – again, sexy.

By Ben Tausig

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