Hook Me Up to a Computer might be a more accurate title for the second full-length from this Australian twin-sister act, which took its name from the black-haired babe of Archie Comics fame and, on 2005’s The Secret Life Of . . ., took its sound from the tween-rock tantrum of “Since U Been Gone,” as fertile a piece of source material as any since “Billie Jean” or “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Here, for the most part, the Veronicas trade the stretched-taut guitars and kiddie-punk drums of their debut for blocky club beats and ’80s-inspired synth riffs; their principal collaborator was the German songwriter Toby Gad, who, after penning a handful of Milli Vanilli tunes, has built a successful career writing for pop acts including Ricky Martin and Fergie.
Like Ashlee Simpson’s recent Bittersweet World, on which Mrs. Pete Wentz went from aping Courtney Love to aping Gwen Stefani, the result of the sisters’ transformation isn’t without its pleasures: Opener “Untouched” has a paranoid keyboard arpeggio and spooky string stabs that provide some unrelenting forward motion, while the title track repurposes “Tainted Love” for kids too cool (or stupid) for Rihanna’s “S.O.S.” Yet what distinguishes the Veronicas from any number of their demographic peers (when indeed they’re distinguishable) is the way their superhumanly screwed-in harmonies contrast with the natural push-and-pull of people playing instruments; it’s what makes the duo’s music say something intense about being young and confused and, as they sing on “This Is How It Feels,” broken with a heart wide open. Thanks to the preponderance of frictionless electronic settings, that special sauce is in short supply on Hook Me Up. This time, the Veronicas just sound like two more hot chicks out for a good time on Saturday night—valuable, sure, but not important.
The Veronicas play the Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza June 25