Alex Delivery Star Destroyer (Jagjaguwar) Release date: April 24, 2007
Curb Your Cynicism is a recurring blogtastic feature in which the music editor pithily enthuses about new releases and reissues he thinks will enhance your life and erode your cynicism about the state of music, circa now.
Okay, when your publicist slings around references like Can, Faust, and Arthur Russell in your press sheet (first sentence, no less), you had better be able to deliver the goods, or you're going to look mighty foolish—or you're going to need to hire a new publicist with a more pragmatic perspective. The flack goes on to name-check Terry Riley's Shri Camel (catnip to a critic like me), Sparks, and Dead C. Whoa, whoa, back up there, sport. This is what's known as over-egging the cake. Alex Delivery, a New York quintet, are releasing their debut album; no need to smother 'em with comparisons that create unrealistic expectations.
That being said, Star Destroyer is a distinctive-sounding disc that has a tendency to rev the motorik groove thang for extended sojourns down the autobahns of your hypnotized mind. So I can understand the Can/Faust comparisons, but Alex Delivery don't quite cruise with the same authority as those krautrock legends. What AD do excel at is the forging of guitar sounds that emulate rusty door hinges, hundreds of dollars in loose change clanking around a pickup truck, a knife-sharpening convention, and xylophones that have been left out in the rain. The group also has a deft way with wistful melodies, sort of like Neutral Milk Hotel, but thankfully without the whiny vocals. "Milan" represents the zenith of AD's quasi-orchestral melodic grandeur, and as a bonus, it's set to a skipping, mesmerizing rhythm that vaguely recalls Can's "Oh Yeah." "Scotty" is a WTF? tangent, some kind of weird blend of exploding kettle-drum cacophony and schmaltzy, waltzy, Tin Pan Alley-esque songcraft. "Sheath-Wet" is like Faust's "Krautrock" as interpreted by an ambitious orchestral-rock band who have heard, yes, Terry Riley, and understood that minimalist composer's ability to wring poignancy and power through repetition. "Vesna" closes the album with a Mercury Rev/Polyphonic Spree/Flaming Lips-ish flourish, a streamers-aflappin' finale of skewed, wide-screen pop.
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All right, so maybe Alex Delivery do deserve the high-falutin' name-dropping. I'm just looking out for the their best interests. I hope they remember my act of kindness when they blow up and get a choice slot at Coachella next year.