"Happy" starts off Hi-Strung's new album as though some sort of standoff were about to go down. It's like spaghetti-Western music interpreted by Siouxsie & the Banshees working with Lene Lovich. "Weird" shifts gears with whimsical but well-composed lyrics that evoke Todd Rundgren or the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and "Snap" recalls the era of '80s new wave embodied by bands like Missing Persons and Big Country, with their ability to inject a breezy quality into upbeat music about less-than-sunny subjects. "Stone Cold Monday" and "Lying Bride" have a feel of inverted nostalgia to them — like something from Julee Cruise if she had teamed up with an early dream-pop outfit. Malfunction is often retro and goth-sounding, but without the misguided cultural baggage.


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