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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
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No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
I'd Be Scared, You Were Still Burning
Greyday Productions

Rating: 6.5/10 ?

June 13, 2005
There is a distinct difference between vulnerable bareness in music and a singularity that's just sort of embarrassing. With its bizarre individual resolve and its blatant obsession with Flying Saucer Attack, I'd Be Scared, You Were Still Burning paces back and forth over that line several times. Its country-styled, plain and awkward baritone vocals and oddball sensibilities are like hearing a mid-90s Crash Test Dummies or Soul Coughing album inspired by the hallucinations of Neil Young.

If you're all for bare-bones freak-folk and the Devil in the Woods catalog - of which Minmae's past works are members - this is for you; otherwise, it can prove to be an uncomfortable experience. "German Girl, She Was American" is awash in shameless "la-las", recalling the crustacean soundtrack of The Little Mermaid, and it's difficult not to blush or cringe at least a little. As it builds to a din of guitars, it becomes rather heartening, but much of its favor is lost as the sound bottoms out to expose the lyrics, "You've got to be yourself! You've got to raise the specter from hell"; unfortunately, the work caves in from there. Its gracelessness can make you grimace or it can make you smile inwardly; it all depends on how it hits at a particular moment.

Moving to the spindly, plucky Blues Clues reject, "Let Him Out," regardless of any formulation of lyrical edge, we are reminded of a kiddie musicale that expects semi-circular seating. Minmae's childlike tendencies are of questionable innocence, which in that regard, gives them some depth, but it works in theory more than practice. In contrast, however, "Experimental Pop Song" - perhaps the most confounding effort on the album - is immediately hindered by its blatant title. The lyrics attempt to be profound - "I'm a crook, but I give all the kids a voice to scream with" - but fail as awkward shoebox poetry, sounding like lines Sean Brooks couldn't wait to use. By the time we realize "Wayward Scout" is nothing if not consistent, we also feel consistently bewildered.

To be sure, I'd Be Scared, You Were Still Burning is not entirely uneasy. Much of it is moody and layered, drawing emphasis to perfect details placed sneakily away from the spotlight. While the album's best track, the energetic and weighty "American Spear", may not be as enchanting as fellow freak flag fliers Cocorosie or the Fiery Furnaces (or Minmae's dearest label mates, Piney Gir and Wet Confetti), it is still undeniably attractive and grandiose, showing Brooks as a true craftsman. The winning points of the album arrive when he is decidedly understated and sincere, letting the songs speak for themselves rather than the concept of the songs. Intellectually, much of I'd Be Scared, You Were Still Burning is fairly satisfying, but viscerally, it frequently fails to connect.

Perhaps it is only because Brooks has so many contemporaries in the scene that so many of his efforts fall left of view; we have more reference points to compare works, and his are simply more puzzling and distant than charming. While it warms after many listens, it must be given that chance and be taken for precisely as odd, brainy and well-crafted as it is.

As there is 'weird for the sake of being weird', there is also 'weird for the sake of endearing the weird' - Minmae's current work falls in the dusky shadows just outside the latter, while many outcast music devotees are looking for more darling comrades to latch onto.

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other reviews by Sarah Peters



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