Reviews

Enchanted Islands

Author: AW Henderson
03/24/2009 | Sup | www.supmag.com | Album Review
My two favorite songs on Beep Beep's Enchanted Islands sound almost nothing like the rest of the album, which maybe isn't such a great sign. But then again, maybe it's not so bad. This is nothing if not unsettling, so its maybe a credit to its overall thematic non-cohesiveness that when the band falls into a seemingly sure-fire groove, they're not there for long. Imagine rolling a handful of marbles down a hill, and you've got the sense of Enchanted Islands: sometimes sunlight-scatteringly chaotic, sometimes subdued and out of sight.

So: onto those songs I was talking about. The nervous twilight of "Return To Me," which begins with its narrator lying motionless on a riverbank, and the haunted-house-by-way-of-Yo-La-Tengo feel of "Wooden Nickels," which features a dual-vocal back and forth requesting that "If you see my body floating down the river,please don't pull me ashore," together create a shadowy aura with hints of sunlight peeking through. Which I like. It's really well done, and both songs show the band able to be quiet without being boring, which the average listener could be forgiven for believing was the motivating fear behind the rest of the tracks here.

Take, for instance, track two: "Mermaid Struggle." It starts off pleasantly enough, but before we even hit the one minute mark, a spindly guitar solo leads us out into the middle of nowhere, setting us up for a straight up attack of math-rock guitars by the middle of the track. It's a little too obviously trying not to fit in, but I can't take off too many points for that. What I will take this album down a full letter grade for is "The Whispering Waves," a song I just flat out can't stand. A science lesson about starfish with vocals buried like the topical echinoderm under waves of nails-on-a-chalkboard guitars. The galloping guitar apotheosis that finishes the song out redeems it partially, but not enough.

Which might be the story of the album as a whole. There are plenty of great moments here -- the aforementioned "Return to Me" and "Wooden Nickels," as well as pan-flute-seasoned "Seppuku," intro "I See You!", which recalls The Runners Four-era Deerhoof, and closer "Only See Me" -- but the problem is these are, if not outweighed, then at least given a run for their money by the duds. "The Lion's Mouth" tries to be Sky Blue Sky Wilco, but it doesn't even get that far. "Two-Spirit" should have been left on the cutting room floor of the Hail to the Thief sessions, where it belongs. And don't even mention that starfish song to me.

But in the end, I'll say this: Beep Beep does what they do well, for the most part -- it's just that I don't like everything they do. And even if you happen to hate my favorite songs and love that goddamn starfish song, the end result is the same. An album that pleases everyone, but not very much.


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