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Music Reviews

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Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
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The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
Souvenir's Young America
Souvenir's Young America
Underadar Records

Rating: 5/10 ?

April 25, 2006
When I crossed paths with the new disc from Souvenir's Young America I had some high expectations, beginning with the album's nifty artwork, a colorful image depicting a stylized man crouching to avoid a falling jet engine. The veritable orchestra of instruments played throughout the course of Souvenir's Young America was also impressive, and how very prog of them! The band's biographic materials drew comparisons between their sound and the din of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and even Neurosis. Names dropped like rain across the page: Wolf Eyes, Mogwai, Dälek and Hail Social. It seemed awfully bold (read: risky) to list such notable contemporaries on the resume of such an untested band, but I decided to put doubt aside and just give Souvenir's Young America a listen. What resulted was a whole lot of foreplay without the orgasm, the band electing to showcase a weak sound that causes the entire album to suffer.

To be fair, Souvenir's Young America has potential - great, dark and gothic potential - but what stands between them and the achievement of their shadowy goals is a guitar. The guitar sound on this eponymous album does not live up to the promise inherent in the layered, syncopated ambience created by the bass and drums, supported with keys, accordion, cello and a litany of other instruments. The tidal wave of sonic energy built up within the tracks is never released, invariably met with either some very distorted, very repetitive guitar strumming or, worse, some very raw, borderline noodling.

Souvenir's Young America opens with "Thirteen for Centaurus," leading off with big metallic riffs and finishing menacingly with one of the album's many Sabbath-like flourishes. The drumming shows a Bauhaus influence and it is certainly easy to imagine that someone in this band owns a copy of Brian Eno's Music for Airports and has truly studied it. Souvenir's Young America's deployment of a wide array of instruments does not detract from the band's otherwise heavy sound at all either. The accordion, xylophone and cello all fall into the mix nicely and, if anything, increase the listener's frustrated expectations of a strong guitar lead. On the fifth track, "Twilight of Steam (What the Thunder Said)," the band implements a banjo and, for a minute, one might think of My Morning Jacket or even 16 Horsepower's incorporation of traditional Southern influences into their not-so-traditional tunes. Unfortunately for Souvenir's Young America, the pile of great influences and cool instruments amounts to a hill of beans, a spectacular army falling into leaderless disarray.

Imagine a race with some really great athletes at the starting line. The gun goes off and the line explodes in a flurry of legs and arms, but the pace is locked and no one ever gets ahead or falls behind of anyone else. With the runners neck and neck as they cross the line, there is no single body striding victoriously, the tattered tape of the finish trailing behind them. There is no jubilation, no triumph, no highs or lows. Just a flatness. Like that race, Souvenir's Young America ultimately leaves listeners feeling cheated, their potential to get a leg up left unrealized.

Reviewed by Jon Burke
A contributing writer and a Chicago resident who will not be goaded by LAS’s editor into revealing any more details about his potentially sordid affairs.

See other reviews by Jon Burke



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