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April 20, 2010

 

Mi AmiSteal Your Face.

The second LP in as many years from this San Fransisco trio, and it’s something to be reckoned with. Their other releases have been as well, but at this point, with a handful of singles and a killer album (2009’s Watersports) to their credit, they’ve got more people paying attention.

The difference – at least between the LPs – is apparent instantly if you play just the first few minutes from both. They’ve turned everything up into the red on Steal Your Face, both in terms of the production and the delivery. Where Watersports was tethered and tense throughout, laying out intriguing margins, Steal Your Face runs right up and shrieks in your face. Most of the record is louder and more immediate than what they’ve done before and even the most unrestrained bits on the first record and singles don’t quite approach the ones here, as the dynamics are changed: the guitar is out front, totally overdriven, and the same goes for the vocals, while Jacob Long’s icy bass sounds that so characterised Watersports, along with Damon Palermo’s drums, are left back a bit in the mix. The dubby spaciousness is all but gone, even on the tracks that go for some of that sound (“Dreamers,” “Native Americans”), and is replaced by a tighter feel. So much so that Daniel Martin-McCormick’s gasping for breath between lines of screeched vocals sounds close enough to take your air from you.

And that immediacy is what characterises this record. It burns white hot if given the oxygen: the drums, the programmed sounds (featured more prominently here), the squealing guitar, the vocals, and the bass. The record raves more than it grooves, showcasing a band that has plenty of ideas and energy to burn through. According to the Thrill Jockey site, like Watersports, Steal Your Face was recorded in five days, and captures the sound of the band as they are live. It also captures an interesting state of pop-iconography-as-found-object, reflected in the artwork, lyrics and the music itself. Apart from the collage of punk/funk/dance/international grooves the band offer up, there are lyrics (and song titles) borrowed from The Tom Tom Club, Bruce Springsteen, and Whitney Houston, while the album title itself is taken from a Grateful Dead record. The concept behind the art and found-ness of the record is discussed in this interview.

It remains to be seen what kind of response this record will receive, but it seems so far to be a mix of the usual “it’s the best thing they’ve done” (perhaps not true) and the also usual “it would be cool, but those vocals… .” Not an easy band, but one that has much to offer, and the same goes for this record.

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