So, I found out that there was a bonus disc for early purchasers of the record in addition to a bonus iTunes track. For the record; I really wish that record companies/bands would allow people to purchase the bonus material after the initial run. I know the point is to create some incentive for early purchase, but what if you’ve recently become a fan?
Anyway, onto the review of the actual album.
My overall impression was quite positive; but honestly only a few tracks really stick with me to the point where I feel like writing about them. I’ll admit I’m not terribly familiar with their earlier work, but on this record at least; their influences seem to be quite apparent, although they do a admirable job of synthesizing them. “The Ghost of You Lingers” starts off with a staccato keyboard that alludes to an intro of Europe tune or some other forgotten 80’s group. That quickly passes as it turns darker and more introspective. I expected the arrangement to build; but after a few listens it feels much more immediate in the fact it never really develops beyond the main keyboard part.
When “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” came up next; honestly all I could think of was that song by The Runaways “Cherry Bomb” that most of you probably know from the Dazed and Confused Soundtrack. In addition to the obvious similarity in the title, the overall vibe felt very 70’s.
The next few songs are solid but the real change comes with “The Underdog”. Up until this point; the entire timbre of the record is quite similar to their earlier recordings; immediate drums, quite compressed (dynamically) and rather aggressive. However, on “The Underdog” the entire sonic picture changes and rather dramatically. Arrangement aside; the recording is much more open and dynamic. This is clearly a Jon Brion production (with the horns and other arrangements) and I really wish that the band had modified the rest of the record to fit in within this style. As it stands, I get a large disconnect between “Eddie’s Ragga” and “My Little Japanese Cigarette Case” which are the songs that bookend “The Underdog”.. Almost like I’ve exited on a short commercial (pun unintended) break.
The last highlight for me is “Finer Feelings” which cops (to some degree) the beat from Rock the Casbah with a eerily reminiscent Wilco-style melody complete with a found-sound breakdown towards the end. The one line in the song I found slightly ironic was often quoted “Commercial Appeal”… which in my opinion “The Underdog” was completely designed to do. Perhaps they felt the need to poke fun at themselves.
Overall, I was relatively impressed with the record, however, I do disagree with Pitchfork’s rating of 8.5, I think that its more like a 7.5, but that’s splitting hairs. If I find the alternative bonus tracks and if they increase my opinion of the record; I’ll post an update.