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Fantastic Success

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Album Review

At first listen it's easy to lazily categorize Measles Mumps Rubella in the bin with the new new wave, that angular, angsty, post-punk genre (Bloc Party, the Rapture, !!!, Lansing-Dreiden) that made some great but mostly mediocre attempts at catching the world's ear around the turn of the 21st century by regurgitating music that briefly flickered in and out of existence before those musicians were born. But on closer inspection of their debut album, Fantastic Success, it becomes apparent they're their own unique species, although they share traits in common with their peers. CBGB's and late-'70s downtown New York City are the vibe here, with Talking Heads being a prime influence. But the abrasiveness of the No New York crew (DNA, Mars) and the challenging format of the art gallery avant-gardists (Glenn Branca) are really the reference points here. Singer Chuck Bettis, an experimental composer in his own right, comes across as the bastard child of David Byrne and Pere Ubu's Dave Thomas, while skittery rhythms worthy of Gang of Four and shrapnel guitar evoking Keith Levine's work with PiL go berserk, driving him into a frenzy. "Algorithm of Desire" opens with a loving homage to Talking Heads circa 77 if the Heads had only been less art school effetes and more razor-sharp punk. "Fantastic Success" channels Adrian Belew in the vocal line and layers of wonky guitar before erupting into a death-disco march straight off the cliff. "Libra Science" erupts in a spastic guitar and hi-hat workout before dissolving into a dark wash of shimmering cymbals and delayed vocals. "Hollow Bodies" and "Apples to Echoes" reference the modern, non-reggae dub mined by acts like Tussle. And "Nice Hollow Bodies" wouldn't be out of place on an early-'80s 4AD sampler. It remains to be seen whether this band will rise above the sum of its influences to achieve its "fantastic success." The only sure diagnosis is, this being merely their debut EP, Measles Mumps Rubella are extremely infectious.

Fantastic Success, Measles Mumps Rubella
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