CD Review – The Danks “Are You Afraid of the Danks”

Moe Sizlack: Seems nobody wants to hang out in a dank pit no more.
Carl Carlson: You ain’t thinking of getting rid of the dank, are you, Moe?”
— The Simpsons, “Bart Sells His Soul”

In the indie nation, everyone has a side project. It’s often hard to talk to band members about their music without them cutting you off to talk about this other amazing band they’re in that plays the songs they write and sounds “just like Neu! fronted by Lonnie Donnegan,” or some such thing.

Side projects have been the de rigueur indie accessory since the ’90s when Green Day had Pinhead Gunpowder, Weezer had the Rentals, Sonic Youth had Ciccone Youth, and on went the list ad nauseam. Some of these side bands wrote good material, and weren’t just throwing out more product to assuage members’ egos and defraud the gullible, but many did just that. Part of the problem was that so many side-projects diffused the focus of the flagship band, watered down the brand and lead to near-fatal doses of self-indulgence.

In North America’s flourishing ’90s indie scene no region could match the East Coast’s staggeringly incestuous side-band clusterfuck. It got to the point that Eric’s Trip could not tell their ass from Elevator to Hell’s elbow.

Which brings us to the Danks, a side project of P.E.I. power-pop sensations, Two Hours Traffic.

It’s not that there’s any one thing wrong with the Danks. They have a sharp guitar sound, kitschy-but-cool synths, unrelenting energy and, most importantly, not a self-indulgent-bone in their bodies. But that’s not enough to justify their existence. The songs here are just mush. After a few listens you can pick out the singles (for some reason, hiding way the hell over on side two), “In Alright” and “Planet Beach,” but they don’t stick with you. There’s a lack of strong musical personality here, a chronic indistinctness in the vocals, lyrics and song-writing dynamics.

Many critics compare the Danks to the Strokes. However, the Strokes, if nothing else, oozed personality and geography from their finely-exfoliated pores whereas, truthfully, the Danks could be anyone from anywhere.

Note to Two Hours Traffic: maybe it’s time to get rid of the Danks.