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LITERATURE

 » 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
Scissors for Lefty
Underhanded Romance
Eenie Meenie

Rating: 7.1/10 ?


June 29, 2007
I was only alive for a few years in the eighties, but to me the decade's entire exuberant culture is so forceful and cohesive that most artifacts fill me with a sort of imported nostalgia. And I know any self-respecting music critic is supposed to hate the Killers, especially after they revealed an ugly side to the recent swell of Springsteen-copping indie rockers, but for a few years they've been a household name that dunked the post-punk revival in synthesized kitsch and, more significantly, brought angst back to the dance floor. To those ends, San Franciscan quintet Scissors for Lefty plug a handful of decidedly "Killer" tracks into their solid sophomore outing, Underhanded Romance, but fall short of creating an album that thoroughly satiates the eighties itch.

Possibly the group's greatest asset is Hot Fuss mixer Mark Needham, who has a great ear for when and how to administer the various dollops of keyboards that fill the album's crevices. Instrumentation that is intriguing in and of itself is a rarity - with occasional underused exceptions like the wobbly guitar yelp in "Lay Down Your Weapons" - but there are a handful of jumps and pairings that could raise some eyebrows. The dainty piano line that replaces the guttural bass and angular guitar that start off "Next to Argyle" sounds like a band advancing a theme that their words can only touch on; "cousin to a chimpanzee, you came swinging into my life" doesn't do nearly as much as the music itself to convey that sudden regression into the bright colors and na´vetÚ of love. It's a cute and essential touch that doesn't always exude meaning with so much clarity.

The lyrics overall are varied enough but pretty sterile; all humdrum scenarios littered with shoeboxes, doorbells, carousels and ginger snaps. These found nouns must mean something to vocalist Bryan Garza, though, because he sings like he's wringing out his heart like a sponge. Like fellow eighties reverer Jarvis Cocker, he doesn't feel like he's resurrecting the voice of any one influence, but rather compacts an entire decade's worth of heartache and jubilation into each syllable, which can of course grate to varying degrees when the listener isn't on his wavelength.

Ideally, of course, they'd be too busy dancing to care about agreeing with the vocalist's sentiments. Some of the time this is true. My feet sure wouldn't let my mind interfere during the deceptively tight, "is this a cover"-catchy opener "Nickels and Dimes" and the arpeggio-freckled "Ghetto Ways," which evokes the Six Flag mascot theme. When the band can maintain its energy, it's unstoppable. But the band is distracted by the album format. They apparently wanted (or needed) Underhanded Romance to be something more than a straight mixtape album, and this ambition undercuts their strengths. Syrupy numbers like "Wandering Arms" extrapolate the piano in "Next to Argyle" to an entire song, and create far too inert a framework for their songwriting momentum. Too many see the goals of good ol' synth-iced angular post-punk as too modest to stick with for more than a few numbers, but for even occasionally watered-down efforts Scissors for Lefty gets a nod from me.

Reviewed by Collin Anderson
Originally from Trumansburg, NY, Collin contributes to LAS from the comfort of his sheltered ivory dorm in Oberlin, Ohio.

See other reviews by Collin Anderson

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