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Parts & Labor

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Album Review

Parts & Labor may still be stuck with a "noise" tag for some time to come, but whatever the intent of the group, and having once again switched drummers (Joseph Wong does the honors this time out), the band hits an astonishing new high on Receivers. It's not going too far to say that the group is one of the best exponents of the kind of epic turn underground rock & roll experienced in the '80s, but refracted through later prisms — most notably, a strong willingness to engage with electronic options beyond feedback pedals. So if every song could almost be an anthem in one universe or another, a tune like "Nowheres Nigh" feels like a summery pop hit yet itself is slathered with cryptic echo and sonic touches which complement rather than drown the performance. This basic model — a tension between immediate singalong impact and headspinning "wait, what?" — replays throughout much of the album, with Parts & Labor's best sense being their ability never to sound like they're actually repeating themselves. If "Satellites" serves as a clear statement of intent upfront — what could late-'60s chanting acid/psych vocals be against a nervous new wave angularity — the fact that the song gets bigger and more dramatic as it goes without ever being some overblown disaster is a wonder to behold. Other such standouts of an easygoing, unforced magpie nature towards creating memorable songs — the fuzzy beats and melodic drones underpinning the distanced but still strong singing of "The Ceasing Now," or the slow, assured build of the elegant "Wedding in a Wasteland" — make Receivers one of 2008's standouts, an open-minded rock record that relies on a wide array of familiar signifiers but never once sounds like it could have been recorded or released any earlier than it was.

Receivers, Parts & Labor
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