Chad Vangaalen | Kelliconnection (Sub Pop)

VanGaalen seems capable of simultaneously making Midnite Vultures and Sea Change if he were able to edit his own ideas.


cd_vangaalenChad VanGaalen invites those kinds of wild imaginings of the artist wrapped in wires recording deep into the night deep within his basement. Perhaps because there is an element of truth to them. But the fact of the matter is, since the release of last year's excellent Infiniheart, VanGaalen has performed with acts such as the Pixies, Stars, and, most recently, indie success story Band of Horses. His touring has been seemingly constant since last fall, yet the rumors of VanGaalen's proclivity persist-his lastest, Skelliconnection, is said to have been selected from hundreds of recordings over the past year. I want to believe, just as I want to believe that Prince writes a song a day and that they are all as good as "Little Red Corvette." It is easy to get lost in the myth of VanGaalen's strange artistic journey and forget the beauty, as well as the inconsistency, of his albums.

Skelliconnection is not a departure from Infiniheart, insofar as its art school schizophrenic charm remains unscathed. The awkward Neil Young comparisons abound, but this bedroom shapeshifter resides somewhere much nearer to Beck. Particularly on "Mini TV's" and "See Thru Skin" which channels Mutations-era harmonica-toting, wobbly synth surrealisms. He has the kind of boundless creativity and curious talent Beck has carried to iconic status, but he lacks the focus to pull it off. As intriguing as it is to listen to VanGaalen's mind churn, it is this unbound creativity that ultimately cripples the album. Whereas Beck generally does his genre-hopping between albums, VanGaalen is reluctant to explore an idea for more than a couple of minutes at a time. VanGaalen seems capable of simultaneously making Midnite Vultures and Sea Change if he were able to edit his own ideas.

Skelliconnection seriously picks up toward the back half, besting many of Infiniheart's breakbeats and synth stabs with a more developed ear for composition. The upbeat "Dead Ends" breaks out the best harmonica solo this side of John Popper's crash dieting. "Red Hot Drops" starts out like an amateur's exercise on Reason, but subtly morphs into a stately electo-acoustic jam. Veering in the direction of what made fellow Canucks Broken Social Scene so successful; "Burn to Ash" mixes his experimental and pop sensibilities perfectly. The greatness of these moments only serve to show the distance between his potential and the alienating tendencies he has to wander on to the next idea without ever completing a sentence.

RIYL: Beck, The Flaming Lips, Fruit Bats

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