It's oddly reassuring that while bands like No Age and Abe Vigoda pump new life into L.A.'s musical bloodstream, blandly competent groups like The Airborne Toxic Event crank out the modern-day equivalent of Sunset Strip sleaze. The outfit's debut includes 10 songs, at least two of which are about a fresh-faced innocent arriving in the draining city fresh off the bus ("Missy") and "all these drugs and one-night stands" (the unintentionally ironically titled "Something New"). Somewhere, Axl is smiling. Their riffs are appropriately of the moment: "Sometime After Midnight" has Arcade Fire guitars and bombast to spare, but mostly, The Airborne Toxic Event sounds like another emo variant on post-punk, all start-stop jangle guitars. Lead vocalist Mikel Jollett toggles between a deep-voiced croon ("Papillon") and high-pitched whining. It's all perfectly competent and smoothly produced, and it's polished within an inch of its life. It's also lifeless: The Airborne Toxic Event appears to live in some kind of social vacuum solely occupied by bands, where everyone's busy drinking and breaking up without ever getting together, wondering when they'll experience a genuine emotion without a hint of self-awareness.
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