Fitz and the Tantrums’ joyous, modern-Motown modus operandi translates best in concert, but the LA sextet comes close to capturing the foot-stomping energy of its live shows on at least the first half of its self-titled third LP. From propulsive opener “HandClap,” as infectious as anything in the Top 40, to anthemic single “Roll Up,” the album proves emphatically that Fitz can still craft a catchy chorus. But the band’s glossiest record yet seems geared toward merging its brassy, retro-glam aesthetic with a commercial-minded agenda. For a time it succeeds, meting out earworms with take-no-prisoners rapidity. Eventually, though, Fitz’s mainstream pop ambitions outpace its once-emblematic sense of funk (and fun) — even on ballads “Burn It Down” and “Run It,” the band sounds more lost, mired in lackluster lyrics and mundane melodies. If this eponymous effort is meant as a statement of artistic evolution on the part of a band eyeing chart success, it’s hard not to feel nostalgic for Fitz’s more soulful former self.
ESSENTIAL “HandClap”Isaac Feldberg can be reached by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter at @i_feldberg.