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Loveninjas

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In their early days, Swedish indie popsters the Loveninjas really did dress like ninjas on-stage and sing tongue in cheek ninja-related love songs. But poses like that can only last so long, and by the time of this, their debut album, singer/songwriter Thor Helmstein has let that particular joke die a graceful death. Not that The Secret of the Loveninjas is lacking in a sense of humor: two of the best songs on the album are the Stone Roses-like jangle-dance hybrid “Do Me” and the manic twee pop rush of “She Broke His Penis in Two. ” Indeed, the band that comes to mind most often when listening to The Secret of the Loveninjas is the perpetually sardonic Sparks; not only does Helmstein regularly slip comfortably into a falsetto similar to Russell Mael’s, the unexpected melodic twists and arrangements blending new wave synthesizers with bright, crisply strummed electric guitars often recall various periods of the Mael brothers’ eclectic career. But Sparks have never quite managed winsomeness, and that’s the quality The Secret of the Loveninjas has in spades: even on the hushed, mournful closer “My Lust Is Dead” and in the stalker-ish, semi-desperate lyrics and pulsating disco beat of the first single “I Wanna Be Like Johnny C,” Helmstein simply sounds so gosh-darn genial and sweet-natured that the overall mood never turns as dark as the band perhaps wanted. Closer to the mark are tunes like the playful “Little Black Friends,” a twist on the monsters-under-the-bed tale, and the wistful shoegazer pop of “Earl Grey with Honey.

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