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Shmat's Reviews
For more reviews, please visit Palebear which is where all future Shmat reviews will appear (as of March 2006).

The Party (CD)

If patience be a virtue, color me a non-virtuous rabbit. I was totally unfair to this album. Maybe because I felt an unfair mood creeping around. So I put The Party aside for awhile after I got it, thinking it was pretty uninteresting. Plus, "Chrash" interestingly rhymes with "trash" which may not bode well for reviewers who haven't swilled their morning coffee yet. Well, I picked it up again a few days ago. It started to make sense. Mastermind Chris Bernat (amusingly labeled as "Christian Burnout", at times) is after something more than just the lowest common denominator pop song. For within the confines of the album run strains of dissonant country touches, whimsical and folky twee leanings, and unabashed straightforward rock, each struggling against each other for dominance. What I liked was this amalgamam of different styles.

The entire album has a pretty loose vibe, something like Crooked Rain era Pavement, though the jokes run fewer and less insular. Certainly, "I'll Turn Off All The Lights" struck me as something that could have been found on that album. I really liked the quirky track "The Blanks", with it's wiggly retro-80s string stabs, obtuse lyrics, and jumpy, spy-hunter chord changes. "True Color Blind" gets even more investigational, featuring really crazy keyboard arpeggios and these spastic, double-time country drums. Very neat. The best thing about this band is that they can provide the experimental spike for your punch while avoiding getting the entire pop party drunk and passed out on the floor. Huh? Yeah, you know what I'm talking about.

The poppy vocal structures of "Burning Bridges" reminds me of Guided By Voices or The Gerbils in their more straightforward moments, but the song segues neatly into the slower, snare drum dominated march "Bridge Work Ahead". On "The Sordid Details", Chris's voice takes on an urgent, metallic sheen that sounded like XTC or the Pixies, while the tone on this song gets smashingly dense with chunky guitars and a quirky modulated keyboard stabbing away in the background. "Springbored Break" features prominent bass lines and a chord progression that I've heard somewhere but just can't place right now. Fun viola on that song as well near the end. I liked the addition of different instruments to the mix, like the banjo on the closer "Light Through Darkness".

To turn a well worn cliche: the more you listen to it, the more interesting it gets. And you might also want to check out the funny little video discourse with Mr. Burnout regarding 3-D glasses that is included as a bonus on this disc.

- review by RABBIT (4.3.04)        

Future Appletree Records
PO Box 191
Davenport, IA 52805

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