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The American Flag

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Album Review

Hershel Savage & the American Flag is the past, present, and future of pop, looking further backward than its Elephant 6 peers while shooting forward as part of the same uncharted, progressive pop diaspora as Apples in Stereo, Olivia Tremor Control, Neutral Milk Hotel, and the like, with each band staking its own, whimsically buoyant territory. But Hershel Savage — which, incidentally, is an invented appellation — and the American Flag seem somehow less of this world, and so more distinct and idiosyncratic than even the oddest pop bands working at the butt-end of the millennium. At the same time, the band (the totality of which is Evan Weisblott and Ayal Senior) is completely absorbant of all the pop music, post-1960, that came before it, and, sonically, it comes across like Sean Lennon (Weisblott also sings like an adulthood-aspiring child, or, perhaps, a human-aspiring alien) fronting the Flaming Lips (themselves a bit alien), or Devo if they loosened their skinny ties, oiled their robotic parts, and decided to rock out. This self-titled first album is not conceptual, but rather song-propelled, but those songs are like mini concepts in and of themselves, and, strung together, create a world of kaleidoscopic, Alice in Wonderland-type weirdness, each song taking on a persona all its own. The band reaches all the way back to surf music ("Tour 65," "Come Along if You Catch Me," and numerous other songs are full of title-waving drums, bonfire hand claps, and sandy, sunshiny choruses), while Pet Sounds-era Brian Wilson is also a melodic touchstone, though a barely discernible one. Quick, blasty punk/new wave influences also abound, such as on the insanely joyous "We've Finally Found Me" and the freakish "Candy." There is also a trace amount of Guided by Voices residue here, especially on "Painted Grape" and the cover of Robert Pollard's "Tropical Robots," and on "Who Knows Where the Robots Are Hidden?," the band creates cartoon rock. But it all comes together in the final musical quilt, full of loose threads and wayward stitches and crazy, colorful op art patterns. Transcendent, timeless pop music.

The American Flag, The American Flag
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