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Music Reviews

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Castle Talk
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Sub Pop
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The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
The M's
Real Close Ones

Rating: 7.2/10 ?

May 29, 2008
The M's stardom has been mapped out for some time now, following a predictable schedule: release an EP (or a couple), followed by a debut LP that establishes the band's M.O. and influences (T. Rex, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles), a sophomore album that churns out a sprawling sampling of everything that sound could encapsulate, with better reviews to boot, and then, as a final movement, hone that sound and break into the big-time. Since their inception in 2000, the band has dutifully stuck to the program, which is where Real Close Ones was to come in, to put the M's on a map covering more than just the grid of the Chicago music scene.

The question remains: How did The M's drop their romping rhythms on unsuspecting listeners, jarring them out of a slumber void of rhythm and blues? Well…

Ironically (or dead-pan literally), album opener "Big Sound" is as big as it gets, with its Supergrass energy meets the Rolling Stones circa 1972 (a la "Rocks Off"). The M's have swagger, which they show in different ways, from the ramshackle bravado of "Impossible View" to the pressing strut of "Bros In Arms." However, their calling card seems to be the pitching of one down-tempo curveball after another, often when least expected.

"Breakfast Score" begins with a lone preparatory bassline, similar to that of "Dirty Old Dog," but reveals a tune of measured carnival jocosity. For a band that openly reveres the Stones, Real Close Ones could best be described as being all tonk and no honky. With oddities like "Get Your Shit Together" and the Harry Nilson-inspired "Naked," The M's would benefit from getting beyond the quirky and rediscovering the vigor of those acts that so inspire them.

But, even with all of its superficial whistles, you'll find that Real Close Ones is a grower. After just a few listens you'll find yourself humming along with the songs even if you don't have any clear reason as to why. Granted, the T. Rex influence adds to its charm ("Pigs Fly," "Ultraviolent Men"), and standout track "Impossible View" has a tasty line that really resonates: "And I wait at an impossible place / Trying to get a glimpse of an impossible face." But the album's catchiness is uncanny because, despite some eccentricities, it generally operates on the level of the mundane.

For the past few years any unsuspecting patron at a record shop in the right place at the wrong time has had to sit through my lecture on why The M's are the most under-appreciated band in America. And even though I could apologize, I won't. Sure, I had this album pegged as the overwhelming buzz source of rock circles in 2008, but it probably won't be. Real Close Ones will likely leave listeners dumbfounded, but the album should nonetheless be lauded for its break from convention. Or, if for nothing else, a sustained charm in spite of itself.

Reviewed by Patrick Gill
In in a state of suspended adolescence, Patrick Gill can be found hiding away in northwest Ohio, where he spends most of his time rediscovering shoegaze, noise pop, britpop, slowcore, sadcore, lo-fi, neo-psychedelia, post-rock, trad rock, and trip-hop music. In his spare time he teaches college English.

See other reviews by Patrick Gill



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