CD Review

"Lovely Allen," the free download of choice from Holy Fuck's second album, isn't the most accurate introduction. For starters, it's really pretty, floating on a melody that recalls the theme song from Reading Rainbow. The track builds from there, with badass drums and twitchy effects fighting for pole position, and when everything hits a dramatic string-soaked peak, first-time listeners are liable to think those rumors about Holy Fuck's sinister post-electro damage were bunk.

The Toronto instrumental outfit has mellowed a bit since its beguiling self-titled debut, but "Lovely Allen" is still an anomaly on LP. Look instead to opener "Super Inuit," an overdriven krautrock jam recorded live on tour with !!! "Milkshake" then musses a Kraftwerk-y foundation with shards of distorted vocals, and "Frenchy's" adopts a hard, sustained groove and won't let go. "The Post" recalls Stereolab, charging ahead but picking up new sounds along the way.

Nothing here is as lo-fi as the first album, on which Graham Walsh and Brian Borcherdt improvised with a few friends and somehow made pop appear out of clattering nonsense and lively drone. LP has smoother edges and a steadier drive, using a rotating rhythm section to explore a wealth of terrain. It was recorded live, primarily in the studio, and then mixed by Girls Against Boys' Eli Janney (which could explain the funk shadings) and Broken Social Scene super-producer Dave Newfeld (ditto the overblown climaxes).

The result is somewhat schizophrenic. Following their impulses yet hewing closer to a steady beat, Holy Fuck have made an album that's mighty and windswept at times, and dully repetitive at others. Namely, the second half feels more tedious than the first, despite the hyperactive jumble of "Safari," which alone approaches the first album's erratic jolt. Maybe it'll all come off better live. [Editor's note: Oh, does it ever.]

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