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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).

Black Forest (CD)

You will excuse me if I don't leap for joy upon hearing this CD by the A-Frames. I would just as soon drill my poor head with an auger as listen to much of their debut CD Black Forest. Subpop, thy name is diversity forever and ever. I will never cease to be amazed by the differences in the bands on their roster. As far as I'm concerned, I wish they wouldn't sign the Wolf Eyes of the world but I'm assuming this is the reason Subpop is still around - because they are masters at spreading themselves pretty thin across different genres. Like collective, soothing butter on indie toast, they can turn a fragmented catalog into musical gold. I mean you're bound to like at least ONE of their bands.

Unfortunately for me this is not one of THOSE bands. Yep, this is the same label that puts out Low as well as Iron and Wine. It's hard to believe though; listening to the A-Frames is like gazing at the Shins in the dark with night vision on. I can't hear anything but bare distinct forms of what might be semi-melodic aspirations if only the noise and lackluster music would improve slightly.

The quick and dirty skinny on A-Frames is that they formed in Seattle nearly six years ago after each doing their time in punk clubs as members of various similar bands including The Butthole Surfers, Cows, and Scratch Acid. The members of the band are Erin Sullivan on guitar and "singing", Lars Finberg on drums, and Min Yee on bass.

It's not a complete washout though. Certain parts of the "artfully-punk" songs are interesting in the sense that you might mosh to it if were played extremely loudly in your ears. One of the few songs that I could deem listenable was "Death Train" which is actually quite hummable punk and thankfully includes some female vocals to brighten up the often un-funny, postpunkmodern grumblings that they seem to revel in. At times they're like Joy Division on antispeed. The same bored offhand vocals and sterilized minimalist playing, but with heightened sloth and less interesting tactics. Songs like "Black Forest II" and "Quantum Mechanic" (at least the pun amuses) take tired old discordant riffings and pair it with smashing kettle-like drums and bass sludge. Confusion most definitely is not sex here. In one part, of "Quantum Mechanic" they just sing the phrase "television / microwave" over and over again. "Age of Progress" progreses nowhere, as Sullivan deadpans lyrics in a deep growl that is almost comical. This is about where I turned off the CD and took a deep breath whilst counting off the days until the Sleater-Kinney album arrives.

- review by BY (4.13.05)        

Sub Pop Records
2514 Fourth Avenue
Seattle, WA 98121

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