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Gee, Weez; it's a rush

June 03, 2008|Richard Cromelin; Steve Appleford; Mikael Wood; Ann Powers

Nothing here is complicated or profound; melodies go where you expect them to, while dynamics follow the quiet-loud pattern Nirvana turned into a recipe. Yet there's an appealing guilelessness to Rossdale's writing that gives the predictable a whiff of universality.

-- Mikael Wood


Long-told story gets a new spin

The Virgins

Atlantic Records

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One OF rock's founding myths involves the poor boy who wages class war by stealing the honor of the privileged girl. The story was cast in dirty guitar riffs by the art school brats who took over in the 1960s -- the socialite-deflowering Rolling Stones led the pack -- but it's lingered on, especially in New York City, where people like to think the erasure of class lines is only a subway encounter away.

The debut album by downtown Manhattan's latest "it" band, the Virgins, is basically an art project exploring this subject. Singer and main songwriter Donald Cumming grew up the son of a SoHo liquor store owner, while shoplifting Versace in Miami at 16 and went on to star in photographer Ryan McGinley’s Whitney museum-worthy shots of decadent club kids.

Cumming uses a hung-over drawl to relate his attempts to bed trophy dates while his band follows the musical thread that runs from the Stones to the Velvets and the Stooges to 1970s punk, into 1980s new wave and on to 1990s New York rock revivalism. Ryan McGinley’s

Like McGinley's semi-staged photos, which meld hippie utopianism with blog-style exhibitionism, Cumming's songs feel immediate despite being relentlessly referential. Titles like "Rich Girls," "One Week of Danger" and "She's Expensive" give away the plot. Bassist Nick Zarin-Ackerman and guitarist Wade Oates (he's a model too) quote wildly from a shuffled playlist of funk, hip-hop and every kind of punk that's not emo or hard core.

Already embraced as the house band on “Gossip Girl,” the Virgins assist would-be debs and playboys eager to put their stamp on familiar transgressions. Cumming might still be a petty thief -- of sounds and ideas now, not clothes -- but he clutches at this material as if he invented it, and the band's boldness is hard to resist.

-- Ann Powers

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