Brooklyn neo-girl-group Tralala trots out a lot of familiar moves on Is That The Tralala, from bratty, back-off-boys chant-singing—usually performed in harmony by the seven-piece band's four female vocalists—to the teen-friendly lyrical concerns of "Are You Gonna Dance (With Me)?" and "Underdog." A straight line runs through the Ramones, The Slits, The Go-Go's, Sleater-Kinney, and Tralala, and it's to Tralala's credit that the songs on Is That sound so catchy and exciting when they're essentially retreads. Credit a bright pop sense, a willingness to vary the formula with unexpected instrumental interludes, and a vision expansive enough to make a song like "Tallmansville, W. VA."—a twangy coal-miner's lament—fall into line with a triumphantly snotty fuck-you anthem like "The Blow-Off." If Tralala can connect those two sides more often, the band will be more than just another cheap retro thrill.
If Tralala is looking for a role model, it couldn't do much better than stripped-down fellow Brooklyn outfit Matt & Kim, whose self-titled debut is in the rock-out duo tradition of Timbuk 3, Quasi, and Mates Of State. Matt Johnson plays buzzy organs and yelps simple, sloganeering lyrics that Kim Schifino shouts along with while banging on her drum kit. On songs like "Frank," Matt & Kim's lo-fi instrumentation and spacey melodies come out like a hybrid of garage-rock and new wave, while on the whomping instrumental "Grand" and the wild "Light Speed," they work a lot of enjoyable music out of very little. Minimalist acts like Matt & Kim can be a little gimmicky, and better live than on record, but this album is fun and inventive, and never over-clever. It sounds like the songs came first, and then the band puzzled out how to build them with the tools at hand.