That Dragonette’s frontwoman, Martina Sobara, claims to have listened to one of Phoebe Snow’s ‘70s-era folk-pop albums continuously throughout the recording of Bodyparts could account for the album’s relatively subdued vibe. As a rule, Dragonette gets better the sleazier their songs are, so the tame material on Bodyparts doesn’t consistently accentuate the electro-pop band’s best assets. While nothing on the album approaches the tawdry heights of past singles “I Get Around” and “Gone Too Far,” Bodyparts does improve in the latter half of the record when Sobara and her cohorts get a bit more frisky.
“Run Run Run” opens the set on an especially tepid note. Sobara usually brings a lived-in presence and sense of warmth to her performances, but she sounds aloof and robotic as she croons the song’s flat, repetitive hook. Lead single “Let It Go” is nearly as weak, driven by a looped keyboard figure that’s tinny and shrill, while “Live in This City” wastes a punchy arrangement on a song that quickly devolves into a laundry-list of assorted personality types. There’s an anonymity to these songs and to the flat, midtempo cuts “Untouchable” and “Lay Low,” which recall the chintzy dance-pop of Aqua and late-period Ace of Base rather than any of the more progressive influences Dragonette showed on Galore or Fixin’ to Thrill.
Fortunately, the material on the second half of Bodyparts showcases far more of Dragonette’s distinctive personality. The trio’s best material explores matters of sexual agency with a believable, first-person authenticity. Standout track “My Legs” is all about self-empowerment, as Sobara sings about owning the consequences of decisions she’s made over a forceful 4/4 stomp. She’s even more forthright on “Rocket Ship,” demanding that a partner “pin [her] like a poster to the wall” and remarking, “I like to keep it corporal,” as a filthy bassline and distorted synths create a slinky groove. Both “Giddy Up” and “Riot” boast potent hooks and brash, forward-thinking arrangements, and Sobara sells both songs with swagger and verve.
The songs that work on Bodyparts are those on which the band embraces its progressive sexual politics. Not only do their lyrics command more attention, it’s on those tracks that the arrangements are more consistently dirty and distinctive and Sobara’s performances are more unapologetic. But Bodyparts is the first album on which Dragonette seem like they’re maybe a little bit ashamed of themselves, hiding their most sordid tales behind some overly polite, anonymous dance tracks that are uncharacteristically vanilla.