AS FAR AS third records go, Power sucked. It was light on the drama and heavy on the dance punk--and its title wasn't all that great, either. But Power was also incredibly good. How can this be? It has nothing to do with Q And Not U's music, and everything to do with what we've come to expect from bands in similar positions. In a familiar tradition, it seems to be in the rulebook that while recording highly anticipated follow-up albums, dance-y post-punk buzz bands respond to success by completely losing the script.
But even if the new Q And Not U bears just a passing resemblance to the same band that recorded 2001's No Kill No Beep Beep, they've hardly thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Their idea of a curveball on Power was playing the recorder and singing falsetto (which is admirable, if not totally brave)--and a lack of the dramatic that, in context, might seem slightly unforgivable.
In a music scene where it's become expected to defy expectations, Q And Not U are fairly good at simply living up to them--risking just enough to keep you listening. As it stands now, Power only fascinates now on a level that is musical. Which is perfect if you like music, but can be a problem if you're expecting a tumultuous train wreck.
No one was shot during the making of Power, and there was no artistic paralysis. It was just recorded, released and warmly welcomed. And it's probably the best record Dischord has put out since Hoover was on the label. The arrangements are angular, mystical, and filled with singer Christopher Richards' newly discovered range. And if all this talk of playing it safe has confused more than convinced you--know that Q and Not U's live show (fresh off an opening spot with mainstream glooms Interpol) always sounds sharp, anthemic and positively alive.