The Upright Animals | Scams (s/r)

cd_uprightTouting their divergence from cut-and-paste radio rock, the Upright Animals form echoing, deeply cosmic ballads, anchored by suspended vocals and peppered with the subtly expansive merging of concise, space-rock guitar.

 

 

 

 

As far as unsigned bands that have only existed for about two years go, the Upright Animals have been fairly successful. Having won Mississippi Nights' 2005 battle of the bands, as well as having opened for Chuck Berry (on more than one occasion, woo!), the quintet should be pretty optimistic heading into 2007 with their first full-length release, Scams. Recorded in St. Louis yet mastered in Phoenix by Roger Seibel (who has associated himself with Death Cab for Cutie and Interpol, among others), the spacious debut features brothers Jim and Ben Peters on wail duty, Bill Newmann's thumping bass, Moises Padilla's heavy skins, and the omnipresent, smooth howls of James Irwin. Touting their divergence from cut-and-paste radio rock, the Upright Animals form echoing, deeply cosmic ballads, anchored by Irwin's suspended vocals and peppered with the subtly expansive merging of concise, space-rock guitar.

Scams is passive-aggressive in nature, rarely in your face, but never light-hearted, drenched in aching vocals and cathartic riffs. From the embattled cries of "Taking the Sun from Our Days" to the erstwhile, emo pluckings of the aptly titled "Drunk Dial," the Upright Animals strain without pulling anything, opting for pop arrangements to build tidy walls around progressive instincts. The biggest coup in their initial effort, though, has to be the firm establishment of a definitive tone, a voice, as it were. Clearly influenced by the likes of the Mars Volta and Smashing Pumpkins, the St. Louisans seek continuity among their drifting grasps, focusing on minor keys, the disparity between quiet and heroic bursts, and reverberating fills with counter-balancing melodies.

Second-track standout, "Taking the Sun From our Days," begins with an eerily familiar, Yoshimi-esque blare, segueing into a furious, scale-climbing lead before Irwin evokes memories of the Juliana Theory's better days, the kind that make you want to finish that drink and get another. The song climaxes with intertwining leads reintroducing an anthemic chorus, devolving into the fractured disturbances of "Hand Grenade" as Scams' catchy torso gives way. For about a four-song stretch, the Upright Animals let loose, and this is what they do best: jamming, ranting, building up and breaking down.

As a structured unit, the group can be its own worst enemy, forgetting to distinguish itself at times. However, as pure musicians, these guys are plenty proficient. Scams is a solid introduction to a band that really hasn't seen a whole lot of daylight. With a little perspective, seasoning, and exposure, the Upright Animals could keep their quick ascent steady. For the time being, St. Louisans can sit back (or stand up) and enjoy watching them grow. B | Dave Jasmon

RIYL: The Juliana Theory, Armor for Sleep, The Mars Volta

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