San Francisco resident Topher Lafata has the same bright idea lots of other former indie-rockers are riding these days: Ditch the electric guitars, mopey breakup songs and human drummers that the mid-'90s proved could be so useful and feed all that pent-up postgrad angst into the computer instead, sharpening a horny, corny electro-rap that addresses the confused twentysomething condition in a vocabulary anyone with a butt can understand. Like his peers Peaches, Har Mar Superstar and Cex, Lafata plays it both satirical and straight up, offering earnest sociocultural commentary alongside self-conscious admonitions to shake what various mamas gave us.
On Young Miss America, his debut full-length as Gold Chains after a series of well-received EPs, Lafata demonstrates how effective this approach can be, but he also reveals its built-in limitations. His prowess with his chosen hardware and software is indisputable: The tracks here are built on a standard booty-bass foundation of digital boom-bap, but nearly every one deviates from form in some ear-catching way, be it a ribbon of electric piano hung over a slithering bass line, a sudden interlude of ye olde music-hall bounce or a menacing blast of those outmoded electric guitars. In "Much Currency Flows," he imports pizzicato disco strings and makes them lean hard into the groove, and for "Nada" he fits an entire Bollywood orchestra pit into his hard drive.
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But as a persona, Gold Chains is hard to take for an entire album. Lafata raps about plenty of worthwhile topics throughout America -- the importance of community, the dangers of materialism, the omnipresence of sexism -- yet his winking delivery and his gravel-gargling flow, so singular in small doses, become as exhausting as Ja Rule in this setting. Lafata's is the same dilemma faced by Prince Paul and Majesticon Mike Ladd on their recent discs: How do you make a point about pointlessness, even if that's your point?