Earlies | The Enemy Chorus (Secretly Canadian)

cd_earliesThe album cover tells you a lot. Look closely, and you see all sorts of cute little details. Hey, wow, are those cars flying?






Perhaps I've turned Puritan in my old age, but I've a firmly established ideal for what psychedelic rock should sound like. Yeah, it should repave my mind with acid-washed guitar effects, but let's keep it sounding organic, okay? There's nothing that kills a rock buzz quicker than a laptop, with its cold, artificial precision. Even the most spaced-out rock, I contend, should have a dash of messy, a dose of sticky, and sound a bit human, in short.

Which brings me to the new Earlies release, The Enemy Chorus. The album cover tells you a lot. Look closely, and you see all sorts of cute little details. Hey, wow, are those cars flying? But back up far enough and survey the whole visual field, and it appears as if Rainbow Brite vomited all over the artist's sheet. The effect one gets listening to the album invokes a similar sensation. The Earlies stuff their sonic palette to the brim with splashes of blaring horns, icy strings and glitchy drumbeats. It sounds damned impressive, for certain. Frequently, the band will begin with a single musical element—for example, a single, plucked bass note on the title track—and build from there, constructing a musical tower of Babel as the instrumental tracks pile up.

It should all make for an engaging, replayable listen—if the foundations weren't so faulty. Here's where I go back to my rant on sounding "organic." The Earlies seem to place a premium on exactitude with this album, and that diminishes from the elements that made them so lovable on their first release, These Were the Earlies. The lower-wattage production on that album may have prevented the group from tossing in things like robotic drum marching lines and walls o' synth, but it allowed the songs to breathe more, and lent the band a highly precious commodity—charm.

That appeal still occasionally surfaces here on The Enemy Chorus, on sentimental stargazing ballads like "The Ground We Walk On," or in the playful pomp of "Foundation and Earth." In truth, most of the tracks have several notable elements—either through instrumentation, harmonies, or arrangement—that will draw listeners in. But there's not enough that will stay with fans: no real standout melodies or homerun musical moments. It's a failed experiment, but I greatly respect the Earlies for trying. It really sounds like they shot for an opus with this album, and that's always a risky move for an artist to make. If the group endures with that adventurous spirit, there will be plenty of surprises left in store for fans. Please, though, guys—hire a new graphic designer. C | Jeremy Goldmeier

RIYL: The Flaming Lips, Electric Light Orchestra

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