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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
Halcyon Digest
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
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Autumn Was A Lark
Merge Records

Rating: NR/10 ?

October 1, 2004
On Autumn Was a Lark, Mac MaCaughan creeps out of his band's earlier, introspective tunnel, with pop-rock that dares to become loud and abrasive -- that is, by Portastatic standards. The CD mostly consists of covers and new takes on previously released material, especially building off Portatstatic's last album, Summer of the Shark. Despite its upsetting lack of experimentation, MaCaughan's modest tenor proves to be a suitable guide through five distorted and heavily-produced studio tracks, and then six moody, solo acoustic guitar tracks.

The five studio-songs sound closer to Superchunk's canon, MaCaughan's better-known indie-pop act. Each song's heavy production is more geared towards building walls of guitars that're distorted to perfection rather than tossing in the experimental synthesizers and strings that have separated MaCaughan's two bands in the past. The songs are organic and fun, but often lack experimentation. Three covers, "Baby Blue", "Growin' Up" and "One for the Road", are pop with a thick layer of rootsy dust; they're songs you might hear around a campfire, only here they're dressed with heavy production to add pop-appeal. The new "Autumn Got Dark" is more successful, with a maniacally catchy opening riff and enticing bridge that recalls The Beach Boys.

The second half of the album is as sparse and slim as the first is chunky. The songs are pulled from their spring-2003 tour. MaCaughan's quick mood changes and simple, syncopated rhythms on solo acoustic guitar make them raw and moving. "Clay Cakes", "Don't Disappear" and "Drill Me" are barer, singer-songwriter takes of Summer of the Shark songs; "San Andreas" and "You Know Where to Find Me" hail back to older albums. Fans should enjoy the new, folksier perspective, as seen in MaCaughan's bird-like whistling on "You Know Where to Find Me", which sweetly replaces the original cut's pristine keys.

MaCaughan's emotive voice remains each song's focal point, be it a cluttered rock number or an intimate live one. An unexpectedly moving Springsteen-cover, "Bobby Jean", is the album's most potent song; he stretches and cracks his voice to just barely sound as worn out as The Boss, and then builds up to a swirling vocal climax.

As catchy and fun as some of the studio tracks are, they point Portastatic towards well-trodden musical ground; the live ones are more innovative, offering a new, more intimate view of MaCaughan.

Reviewed by Josh Kazman
No infro.

See other reviews by Josh Kazman



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