YACHT — that’s Young Americans Challenging High Technology in full — have always acted as a bracing antidote to the legions of uninspired neo-post-punk imitators around them. There is a lot more than plain homage in their taut, hi-octane work; they grasp the conceptual inclinations of original post-punk legends like Devo and Talking Heads and run with them, to dizzying and delightful effect.
Shangri-La comes out on James Murphy’s DFA label, and it’s a perfect marriage; for all their pseudo-intellectual posturing (the album is accompanied by an extensive “history of utopias,” alongside reams of impenetrable anthropological text) YACHT, like Murphy himself, deliver their “concept” through a vague veil of irony, wrapping their philosophical musings in a non-too-serious blast of good-time indie dance rock that doesn’t require a doctorate to make itself understood.
Take “I Walk Alone,” which boasts smartass lyrical ruminations on cats eating mice, the true meaning of friendship, and discovering a cause for cancer. Through all this riddling, YACHT can’t help but sound like they’re mocking themselves a little — in the end, lead vocalist Jona Bechtolt exclaims, “We just bring it all back to the club.” It’s the kind of idealistic/hedonistic divide explored by earnest musicians the world over, and it crystallizes the paradoxes of Shangri-La, an album that’s equal parts ambition, exclamation, and self-effacing irony. It’s a thinking, drinking, and more often than not, slyly winking album, and a worthy addition to the vaunted DFA canon.