Starflyer 59, Sparklejets U.K. & The Relatives
EVERYBODY MAKES MISTAKES
TOOTH & NAIL
A few seconds into "Play the C Chord," the first cut off the new album from OC's famously dreamy Starflyer 59, you think they're going to go off and do something different besides their usual airy stuff, since the track starts with these chunky, deep-bottomed drum kicks and this Duane Eddy-style geetar twang. But then the bass lets up, singer Jason Martin's sleepy voice moves in, and things casually dissolve into their familiar shoegazer terrain. On Everybody Makes Mistakes, the band's take on this old genre (let it be known that '90s nostalgia has officially begun)—best described as the Jesus & Mary Chain with a heart that pumps My Bloody Valentine—feels dated at worst. But if you stick to doing something long enough, you'll eventually become an expert—as Starflyer have. There's a brooding, spacy quality to their songs that's endearing, like what big, white poofy clouds rolling across the sky might sound like if they were caught on audiotape. That's what's here, mostly, though the band does pick things up a bit on tracks like "No New Kinda Story," which sounds like the closest thing to a radio hit—a 1988 radio hit. They rock out a little more on "No More Shows," something you can actually dance to. But on the downside, stuff like "20 Dollar Bills"—an over-the-top slice of prettiness laden with piano, harp (not harmonica) and string effects —is too lush to swallow. "Just Try" could work as an aural sleeping pill; you almost want to slap Martin across his mug and yell at him to wake up (he doesn't help much with his "just try to stay awake" line, which feels like he's actually daring you). As for Martin's lyrics, almost everything on Mistakes is completely incomprehensible, since he sings in what seems like a constant exhale ("A Dethroned King" just has to be in another language). But Starflyer have always seemed more interested in atmosphere and feeling than getting any lyrics across. For that, it's a good disc—if you're into Sominex-laced oxygen rock. Just don't play it while operating heavy machinery. (Rich Kane)
IN, THROUGH, AND BEYOND
CRAB APPLE RECORDS
MEET THE RELATIVES
Recent releases from Sparklejets U.K. and the Relatives, bands that played this summer's International Pop Overthrow (IPO) fest, make worthy arguments for the state of local power-pop. The Sparklejets album has been out for almost a year, but not until a few weeks ago did the band finally get up off their collective arse and send us a copy. And when it arrived, it was packed in a box stuffed with Necco wafers and stale Ding Dongs. Cute, or what? They know how to pay off the media, and they play great tunes! We actually heard them first in July at the IPO in Garden Grove, where they blurted out a too-charming set of unashamed, infectiously crunchy, Beatled-up pop songs about chicks and guys and stuff—nothing too heavy there, but you wouldn't want them to be. For a pop band, the Sparklejets are one of the best local practitioners, a bit tougher and less bubble-gummy than Walter Clevenger & the Dairy Kings, another band of OC popsters who apparently never felt the need to invest in an FM radio whilst growing up. As it should be, In, Through, and Beyond is weighted down with hooks swiped from the '60s and '70s—more Bay City Rollers than Beatles, but smart enough to include covers of Big Star and Brian Wilson songs. Their own tunes are often just as juicy as the ones by those sonic giants: "She's My Fave" and "10 Inches" are some of the bounciest minutes you'll ever spend. Singer/ guitarist Susan West's "Oh Poor Me" is a vengeance fantasy in which her man dumps her and then promptly gets killed in a fiery Pinto collision—that'll teach his ass—and singer/guitarist Michael Simmons weighs in with (among several nifty others) "Haircut Girl," a giddy ditty carved straight from the Alex Chilton/ Jonathan Richman school.
The Relatives, meanwhile, are a trio working the same bash-pop quarry the Kinks used to mine. Their clang is even rougher and garagier, but they never stray too far off-course in their Quest for the Holy Hook. Again, you won't find anything too weighty on Meet the Relatives (like the Sparklejets, they're Beatles-obsessed). The songs—mostly about girls—are drenched with raucous, deliriously loud waves of guitar, with one tune, "I Know," that goes off into a shimmering, almost folkie Byrds thing that's just one of several high points. Sweet, innocent, inoffensive tunes that, when they really get pumping, make you wanna get up and shake it a few times. (RK)
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