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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
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
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
The Minor Canon
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Rating: 7/10 ?

July 26, 2007
The Minor Canon aren't the only band to belie their sound for publicity purposes, in this instance calling their music "gritty." That word, of course, isn't the best word to describe a piano/acoustic-based band with a horn section and a singer whose voice is often reminiscent of Matthew Sweet's. Comparing the band's sound to "Memphis soul on an indie bender" is a stretch as well. Questionable descriptors aside, the Los Angeles-based sextet, led by singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Paul Larson, offer a few fresh twists to indie pop's formula on their debut album, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.

Not all of the songs on the album are as engaging as the opening track, "It Never Was"; of course if they were No Good Deed Goes Unpunished could easily be considered "one of the finest indie pop albums in years." A perfect marriage of emotive dynamics and melody, "It Never Was" is a true pop gem, steadily intensifying through verse/chorus progressions with new instrumentation announcing each shift, whispering through the bridge, and then exploding into a cathartic coda that fades into a somber horn arrangement.

Unfortunately, after the superb opener, Larson and his bandmates quickly steer the album into the mid-tempo doldrums with a trio of plodding, bass drum-thudding songs. The droning chorus of "A False Start" - "You're never happy/ And you're never sad" - effectively sinks the already monotonous raft's chance of floating. On "Bend Like Trees," the band breaks from conventional verse/chorus structure with a Ben Folds Five-like romp that segues into a horn solo only to return to the song's lumbering central theme. "The Art of Quick Draw" is livelier than the other two songs, but Larson's stab at a clever verse falls flat: "I move faster than you can possibly know/And did you want to see it again?"

Just when its first half is officially mired in all-out blah, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished is dramatically energized, by an acoustic ballad of all things. Combining a guitar figure Sam Beam would be proud of with Larson's tender vocals and placid piano backing, "Killing Spiders" is positively beautiful. The repose is short lived, however, as with "The Rockets Countdown," the band resumes the mid-tempo melancholy. To be fair, the songs on the second half sound fresher and more focused than those earlier on the album. Moving from shuffle, to waltz, back to shuffle, "Old Long Since" is stronger in its musical detouring than "Bend Like Trees," but Larson is still a long way from "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" territory. "The Present Time" coasts atop a gloomy piano arpeggio before ascending into the chorus's lush texture, while "Cave In," boasting the album's brightest melody, is an uplifting, sing-along ode to malaise that would've been a fitting closing track. Instead, Larson closes with the seemingly unfinished "Upside Down," which sounds like he recorded it while trapped in a storm drain.

That the Minor Canon began as Larson's solo project before it grew into a six-person ensemble may account for some of the album's unevenness. Still, when the band finds solid footing on No Good Deed, the result is sometimes fantastic and at the very least, as Larson sings on "Cave In," "quite nice."

Reviewed by Jason Middlekauff
No biographical information is currently available.

See other reviews by Jason Middlekauff



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