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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Titus Andronicus
The Monitor
XL

Rating: 5.9/10 ?


March 30, 2010
So these New Jersey youngsters return, just barely old enough to get a legal drink, with either an Andy Kaufmanesque joke, or a sincere, rambling mess that often times collapses under its own poorly sketched-out ambition. Most of the time it's both.

That the music sometimes succeeds in spite of Patrick Stickles' mostly rambling nonsense is where the praise should be heaped, but it's still a puzzling development from a band that excelled by such a wide margin at writing conventional rock songs on their debut; even its longer pieces with cumbersome titles had a more natural feel than the multipartite operettas of The Monitor.

The Airing of Grievances was the kind of record that thaws the heart of so many indie kids who believed they'd outgrown guitar rock. Enter the overblown sequel. In a development that makes a Michael Bay sequel look modest, the ambitious New Jersey band has decided on a semi-linear Civil War-themed song cycle that neither seems to gel thematically nor in discrete individual pieces. Maybe it's because they don't take their convictions seriously enough to cling to a very well-thought-out story, let alone any sort of cohesiveness, or maybe they're just half-joking. Maybe they lack the imagination to fill in the details such a task requires. It's definitely easy to suspect all of the above.

The first track begins with another cryptic, vamped-theatre voice, but soon gives way to an almost Hold Steady-like ramble about interstates and New Jersey and who-really-cares-what. As soon as Stickles spits out "Tramps like us/ Baby we were born to die," the song predictably revs up the rock. Chunky chords and melodic lead guitars eventually devolve to a screamy-bridge (not unlike the one found in Grievances' "Upon Viewing Breughel's 'Landscape with the Fall of Icarus'") before his automatic Greek chorus howls the melody again. It's a great example of all of the best elements that conspire to make this album difficult to dismiss outright: when it's good it's really good.

Really, the lyrics are the crutch. There's so much going on in most of these ambitious, turbulent songs that with every change in style or signature you're thrown for another loop. Most of the turns of phrase are mediocre or occasionally off-putting. When Stickles utters melodrama about a "pig in feces" it's like a cheap special effect depowering a great scene in an otherwise fine movie. However, it should be noted, that the overall effect of the mostly terrible lyrics doesn't dampen the momentum or ability to enjoy the album. Part of what keeps the "concept" from becoming absolute kryptonite is both the band's unwillingness to take it too seriously, and the fact that as a listener you don't need to buy into the concept to enjoy the overall feel of the album, which is joyous, spirited and (I suppose) enjoyably mushmouthed.

There's something to be said for a Dark Knight-quoting, bratty young band of clearly talented musicians trying this hard. At times the running-on-fumes punk benefits The Monitor's overall sound. But the problem is that the songs that surround the defined centerpieces sound undeveloped or just plain fall flat, particularly early on when we hear about a supposed hero covered in excrement and piss as a dramatic plot-point. It all falls in the camp (pun intended) of trying too hard, which is a shame. All in their early 20s, it's easy to see the perceived expectations for a sophomore blowout crippling the execution. There's plenty of time to bounce back for such an exuberant idea-packed group, and hey, they erred on the side that made me think. Trying too hard is still better than not trying at all.

Reviewed by Cory Tendering
No biographical information is currently available.

See other reviews by Cory Tendering

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