In some ways, all boy/all girl is a typical New York rock band. Their new LP, Slagroom, borrows its title from the Dutch word for whipped cream, but it also conjures an image of a dingy, run-down space not unlike the East Village pawn shop basement where they recorded the album. Much of the narrative surrounding the seven-piece band shares a similar ethos of struggling for art in NYC, as you can see in the interview with founding member and bass player Nicholas Rahn in Line of Best Fit about the best cheap food in the city. That subject comes up again in the final song on Slagroom, which repeats the single line, “I’m at the mall food court by the Arby’s.”
In many other ways, though, all boy/all girl are atypical. “New York rock band” implies a kind of grit and hardness, two poses that the band avoid, except in a few deliberate moments (“Pigeon” and “Voyeur,” to name a couple). The group—which includes a ukulele, a viola, and a cello, on top of the usual rock instruments—creates a breed of pop music not often found in the pop milieu. It is earnest, concrete, and most surprising of all, borrows heavily from the world of musical theater.
Orchestra-pop influenced by Broadway isn’t going to suit everyone’s tastes, yet Slagroom has something for everyone. In the opener, “Living Room,” for example, all boy/all girl introduces a song that mixes theater with a frenetic melody reminiscent of '90s riot grrrl. You can easily imagine a different song if the screeching viola was a screeching electric guitar. Every song brings a similarly unexpected combination of sounds. On “Housewarming,” singers Danielle Lovier and Jessie Rogowski sing soulful soprano harmonies over a groovy bass line; on “Development,” looser vocals deliver a jumpy melody; “Rapture” begins with '50s doo-wop and ends with accents of dissonant guitar and striking lyrics, such as “I feel like I’m being cuckolded,” and “Hide all your money in a church / Where it’s safe and sound”; and “Civic Mind,” which begins softly and prettily and steadily builds towards an echoing, trippy space.
One advantage that musical theater has is that even away from the stage, its stories are meant to come alive. By investing their indie pop with the same devices, all boy/all girl creates vibrant music with rich narratives. It may not have the grit of its neighboring bands, but anyone who makes a wistful dirge out of a mall food court next to an Arby’s has enough of something else to go around.