Ted Casterline plays bass in the local prog-folk ensemble Krakatoa (named for the “world’s largest seismic event”), who are truly awful, and I’m not just saying that because for years I heard them rehearsing Khachaturian’s “Saber Dance” from the other side of a Boerum Hill wall. We even considered getting them an A/C unit so they’d keep their windows closed. So imagine my surprise when I realized Casterline also plays bass for Other Music buzz-binners the Hong Kong, who are everything Krakatoa is not: crisp, solid, fun, pop-savvy.
Normally you would consider it a bad sign when a Brooklyn new new wave band starts off its EP with a song called “Mazerati”; nothing about Maseratis is cool, including the Paisley Park project by that name, and nothing about kids today resurrecting ’80s status symbols is cool. But the Hong Kong’s song is appropriately named: It’s fast, efficient, and beautiful, with hyper but precise drumming and a menacing synth line. Ted’s bass playing is the best part—taut, snappy, and danceable, like the fun parts of Blondie and the fierce parts of Stereolab.
The record slows down after that, which doesn’t help, but it remains disciplined, which is a good thing in a new new wave band. Beyond Pylon and the Au Pairs and Tall Dwarfs, I hear Eno and the Sweet and the Move—the kind of rock music that understood dance music even before disco, to paraphrase Douglas Wolk. Like any great new wave record (old or new), Rock the Faces ends with a grandiose and self-affirming anthem. This one’s called “It’s On,” and it builds to an ecstatic drone. It’s not just an homage to “Blue Monday” or “Crazy Rhythms”; it’s the kind of song that could actually make a teenager feel less stupid. If Casterline had been practicing that one every night, we might not have moved.