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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 Envy Corps
Soviet Reunion (CD)

Whether or not the Radiohead/Coldplay/Travis tag will dog the heels of the band is up for debate, but The Envy Corps is clearly one of the best things I've heard coming out of Ames, IA lately. And yeah, we do tend to get a lot of stuff from Iowa, no kidding at all. I like the British half-shoegaze, half post-post-rock sound and this album has got it in spades. Boy, does lead singer Pettipoole do a remarkably excellent job in sidestepping the I-Should-Try-Sing-Like-Thom-Yorke-Just-To-Get-A-Gig mentality. A lot of other guys purposely try to ape Radiohead and the popular bands I mentioned, but they don't do that at all. We're instead treated to 11 gorgeous tracks that sound like they were plucked wriggling and frisky from the cool waters of Red House Painters, Talk Talk, and The Autumns and planted down in a firmament of song structures that make them shimmer and shine.

They have the ability to slow it down to indie rock ballad tempo as on the beginning of "Walls" or expode star-like with distorted guitars and walls of sound at the end of "You'd Look Good In Wings, Part II". I think what makes them so good is that they are totally not self-conscious at all that the songs they play may be construed as being derivative. I've heard other bands play a similar style, but they're so aware of the need to avoid the copycat tag that they lose their way in the music. All the energy and life get sucked out of the tracks in their quest to sound recognizable yet different. The Envy Corps borrow what they will from certain bands without a second thought and proceed to incorporate it in their own haunting style. The short electronically spiced track "<BR>" (someone in the band knows HTML?) is pretty interesting. "A Purpose" is grand and yearning, while "A Letter To Our Senator" contains a strange guitar line played through a reverse box(?) and a separate voice submerged parallel to the real vocal line in the chorus. The songs are often minor, angular and actually quite good. Beautiful high bells and rhodes abound at the beginning of the track "Keys To Good Living" before it implodes in a cacophony (my thesaurus tells me it's a cacophony anyhow) of distorted guitars. "Martyrs (Blood Blood)" is actually one of the few songs where you can say, OK they probably got that high falsetto vocal jump from Radiohead ("High and Dry", perhaps) but it still brought a smile of recognition rather than a frown of displeasure to my face. In the end, the songs are so strong and well put together in a wonderful ethereal style that it cancels out any misgivings about the music's lineage. I certainly hope others are able to look beyond what might be seen as the only potential stumbling block on this great CD.

- review by RABBIT (9.11.04)        

Bi-Fi Records
PO Box 1327
Ames, IA 50014

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