Over the last few years, young writers who work primarily online have seen their professional lives and social lives intersect. In my case, the day job involves scouring the sort of blogs I might enjoy frequenting in my free time, or monitoring what should be the purely puerile Twitter. I have a personal Twitter account, but rarely use it because … well, it doesn’t pay. The problem and the best part of listening to Black Dice (the version that’s been around since Broken Ear Record anyway) is the way they’ve been able to capture the feeling that tweeking on trash culture can be both subversive and completely empty. It’s not numbness, but a feeling like you just voluntarily snuffed a sense. I assume that the way their recordings consistently fail to make any kind of coherent emotional sense is what keeps people so interested; the music itself is, with rare exceptions, weirdly arid.
This also puts Black Dice in the position where a lot can be said but little can be proven. The band arranges sounds in the same way they layered back-issues of Better Homes and Gardens on neon construction paper in Broken Ear‘s inner artwork. Or better yet, like the de-pornographized beaver shot they clumsily glued a beaded thong to on the album’s cover. The coursework that’ll allow you to enjoy a Black Dice record is minimal — they’re not claiming any pedigree for their aesthetic – yet the band’s music has always been kind of a chore to absorb. Of course, that’s sort of the point, and it keeps them clear of “middlebrow.”
Repo starts off with good vibes on “Nite Creme,” a nazzty bassline snaking through a familiar wounded oil-can rhythm. But the second half of the song is broken down into wobbly and tiresome constituent parts that work against themselves. Then, just before the four-minute mark, they trot out some screwed-down gnome voices over a violently dull bass drum. This turn for the worse is indicative of the album as a whole; the second track, "Glazin," explodes with a clean break, but then the seriously bumming "Earnings Plus Interest" saps any accumulated goodwill.
This magazine generally gives the benefit of the doubt to music that doesn’t have explicit intentions, but it’s hard to extend that same service to Black Dice. They’ve made big changes as a band before that have generally been rewarding, if not immediately satisfying. Three consecutive albums isn’t enough to exhaust the thick vein of detritus they struck with Broken Ear, but it’s enough to exhaust the listener. Repo is likeable for all the right reasons. That the band hasn’t challenged themselves or their audience to find new ones is the album’s chief drawback.