Reviews

Business Casual

Author: Brian Howe
09/03/2004 | Pitchfork Media | www.pitchforkmedia.com | Album Review
Beep Beep is the latest addition to the Saddle Creek roster, one that seems like an attempt at diversification. Of the Saddle Creek roster, Beep Beep come closest to the horny electro-rock of The Faint (indeed, Joel Peterson plays bass for both bands), but while this group piles on the guitars and scrimps on the keyboards (The Faint inverts that ratio), they're a far cry from Bright Eyes, Cursive, Rilo Kiley, or any of Saddle Creek's other signature bands. Instead, Beep Beep are accumulating fair if superficial comparison to Wire, XTC and Gang of Four. They echo XTC's brimming atmospheres and sculpted production as well as the anthemic post-punk tendencies of Gang of Four and Wire, but their compositions aren't lean enough for the comparisons to stand up under close scrutiny. If anything, it might be fair to say Beep Beep sound like two or three of those bands played simultaneously.

The group is comprised of the core guitar/vocal unit of Eric Bemberger and Chris Hughes (who played in The Magentas with Conor Oberst and The Faint's Todd Baechle), bassist Katie Muth (who has since ditched the band for grad school and was replaced by Petersen), and drummer Mike Sweeny (who is also a member of Criteria, a band fronted by ex-Cursive guitarist Steve Pedersen-- Saddle Creek keeps it in the family). Bemberger, Hughes and Peterson also played together in an obscure band called Gabardine, which released one EP before disbanding in 1998.

That Bemberger and Hughes have been collaborators since long before the advent of Beep Beep is apparent in the skillful, confident instrumental interplay on Business Casual. But even the well-honed dynamic fails to fully compensate for the overplayed, cluttered arrangements. While impressively rendered, they are often, put simply, just too much, and as such, the record's expansive sonic palette seems more imposing than engaging. I'll look forward to seeing Beep Beep perform, as the record sounds as if it would absolutely lay waste in the live setting, but a softer touch and sparer arrangements might have been more palatable for the recorded format.

Business Casual opens with "I Am the Secretary", an exploding cluster of the digital flux, percussive muted strings, jagged guitar shrapnel, and theatrical, Sick Lipstick-ish singing that dominate the album. Note that Business Casual's lyrical themes are touted as explorations of "office culture, as well as religious, environmental, and sexual deviance," and are often undecipherable. But the deviance, if nothing else, shines through the affected caterwauling. "Oh No!" is a standout, with the same driving rhythm as the rest of the album, but a starker and more discernible peristaltic thrust-- one that breathes new life into the tired formulation "angular." "Giggle Giggle" rolls out a staccato funk reminiscent of The Natural History over a ping-ponging electronic bass tone and, as the fourth song on the record is accompanied by a burgeoning anxiety stemming from the unremitting onslaught of strobe-light changes and vocal tomcatting.

One can't accuse Beep Beep of being lackluster or uninspired. Business Casual is fierce and competent, and evinces the rippling of powerful musical muscles. But its affectations are so grating that it's tough to make it through it all in a single listen. I'm not averse to abrasive, nerve-testing music, but I'd prefer more contrast. Beep Beep's songs have a certain keening shrillness that will leave all but the hardiest nerves frazzled and jangling.
Business Casual

Business Casual

LP / CD / MP3




Releases

All »

Business Casual

Business Casual

LP / CD / MP3


Merch

All »

Bat Button

button


Ballet

apparel


Cloud

apparel