Originally from Louisville, KY, VHS Or Beta relocated to Brooklyn, NY, and the move to the big city has inspired a change in sound, pushing the band’s music further into electronic territory. And besides the move, VHS Or Beta’s shift in sound makes sense—founding members Mark Palgy and Craig Pfunder have been DJing and remixing since 2008, putting their own spin on the likes of Tegan And Sara, My Morning Jacket and Hussle Club, just to name a few.
Diamonds And Death is the band’s first album since 2007’s Bring On The Comets (Astralwerks), and though the new album has a sharper electronic edge, listeners will still hear those ’80s comparisons that have always trailed VHS Or Beta (i.e. Duran Duran, INXS, Depeche Mode, etc). The ’80s thing sometimes gets a bit repetitive, but it does lend itself to the pulsing, upbeat feel of the album that touches on house without straying too far from the band’s pop comfort zone.
“Breaking Bones” sounds like if Tears For Fears were to add a much quicker drum beat and some groovier guitars to any of its hit songs, and the title track to Diamonds And Death has a similar new wave vibe. VHS Or Beta pulls away from nostalgic sounds and comes into its own a bit more on tracks like “Eyes” and “I Found A Reason,” with several synth layers woven over dance-heavy beats and a driving piano melody. “Jellybean” brings the listener into a haven of deeply psychedelic thumps, with a clapping rhythm that builds with bongo hits, piano, a smooth guitar melody and echoing synths. The song’s move into a purely instrumental jam makes it a stand-out on the album.