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Album Review

A very curious album from a very curious band. As with This Busy Monster's previous efforts, it hardly seems right to call Fireworks an indie rock album, although that is certainly what it is in many ways. The stumbling block is that signifier, "rock." The album doesn't bare much resemblance to anything previously considered rock music. It has as much jazz and Tin Pan Alley in it as it has rock. But then it's not either of those stylistic tags either. Nevertheless, it is something — and a very clever and charming something at that. There's no way to summarize a particular "sound," but the band's music is utterly its own. It sometimes has an excessively caffeinated energy similar to friends Harvey Danger (although the album is more stripped down than the debut), but This Busy Monster is just as capable of uncoiling a sweet, swoony tune, as with the one-two opening punch of "What She Said" and "Loup-Garou." The former teeters on some kind of emotional precipice, captured perfectly by the ghostly opening of the song — austere banjo, minor piano chords, an eerie theremin — like the calm before the storm. When the song explodes, it is like a sincere, passionate outpouring. The latter, on the other hand, is sort of bluegrass, sort of an old-time, moonlit gazebo tune played by a loopy orchestra (banjo, violin, clarinet). The same kind of disjointed, manic tug of war runs throughout Fireworks. The album also spawns beatnik jazz-folk ("Swoon"), carnival-esque ska ("Issue"), gothic post-punk ("Unentitled"), and a skeletal, cold piano dirge to bad dreams ("Time to Sleep"). It almost comes across as if Captain Beefheart and Devo were jamming with Morphine. Even the songs that are the most pop- and rock-oriented are riveting in the most enigmatic, non-rock-related ways. Possanza's lyrics are outstandingly witty, if also totally obtuse. The strangeness, though, never comes off as willful but rather as if it is legitimately arty and esoteric. And beneath it all, you are left with some disturbing images that help the music resonate long after the curious effect of the surface idiosyncrasies has worn off.

Fireworks, This Busy Monster
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