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You Can't Break the Strings In Our Olympic Hearts

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Album Review

As omnipresent as both Broken Social Scene and Arcade Fire have been over the last several years, the question isn't whether there would be new bands directly inspired by one or both, but why it's taken so long for those bands to show up. The debut full-length by Toronto sextet the Diableros is awkwardly pitched exactly halfway between the Arcade Fire's inclusive earnestness and Broken Social Scene's pulsating post-rock cool, only it's not nearly as good as either. The album's primary weakness is singer and lyricist Pete Carmichael, who is lacking in both departments. Vocally, Carmichael's thin, adenoidal warble is regularly sent through the sort of effects that have been an indie rock cliché ever since the first Strokes album. The results are the aural equivalent of a bad toupee: not only do the distortion and compression not hide what a terrible, pitch-poor singer Carmichael is, they call the listener's attention to it. More natural production on the vocals might have given Carmichael a pass, were it not for the sophomoric solemnity and hamfisted triteness of his "can't we all just get along?" lyrics. (See the eye-rolling "Sugar Laced Soul," which makes Lavender Diamond singer Becky Sharp's lyrics sound like PJ Harvey in comparison. Heck, for that matter, look again at the meaningless pretension of the album title, which Carmichael shrieks repeatedly at the end of "Olympic Island.") This is particularly a shame because with a different singer and lyricist, the Diableros would have strong potential. Their unusual six-person lineup includes two full-time organists: note that they aren't "keyboard players," but good, old-fashioned organists. One of them even plays a vintage Farfisa, which gives the album an appealing retro sound redolent of both vintage '60s psychedelia and early-'80s new wave. The guitarists and bassist tend to stay in the background, favoring short, clanking up-strums and eighth-note pulses (all of it shrouded in fuzztone) on top of Phoebe Lee's tightly constricted, Motorik-style drumming. The resulting sheets of shoegazery sound are occasionally enough to allow the listener to ignore Carmichael, as on the propulsive, shimmering opener "Working Out Words," which sounds strikingly like a modern updating of early Echo & the Bunnymen. Overall, though, it takes a lot to get past Carmichael's vocal and lyrical flaws.

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You Can't Break the Strings In Our Olympic Hearts, The Diableros
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