Saddle Creek | Broken Spindles | Reviews



Author: Kevin Renick
09/13/2005 | Playback St Louis | | Album Review
Joel Peterson is a guy who likes to keep busy, which is a good thing because Peterson's a deep, dark thinker. He's already the bass player for the Faint and Beep Beep, but Peterson seems to save his most interesting musical ideas for his ongoing solo project known as Broken Spindles. The third release under that name is Inside/Absent, and on it, Peterson poses the musical question, "Can a melancholy atheist creating twitchy, glitchy pop-tronica make his mark on a listener's psyche with a near-EP-length (26 minutes), half-instrumental platter? Sure, with his plinking keyboards, a snatch or two of sombre vocals, and some disarmingly honest lyrics, why not?

"Excuse me, I'd like to introduce me/Explain me, the best that I can," sings Peterson in "This Is an Introduction," his entry in the Honest Song Titles competition. The tune breaks into a nice bopping rhythm at times that anchors the oddball glitch Peterson tends to favor. You have to pay close attention to hear Peterson's lyrics at times, but the frank sentiments amid an electronica soundscape can be rather compelling: "It's hard for people to get close to me/When I'm so distant," he tells us after revealing some things about strained family relations that are a bit unsettling. Elsewhere, "Burn My Body" is a gritty, fast tune that sounds like something the Ramones might have made if they'd gotten into synth-pop at all, and "The Distance Is Nearsighted—a vocal rap sung mostly on one pitch while another vocal considerably higher competes for attention—sounds like a curious combination of Prince and Depeche Mode.

The two coolest songs are probably "Please Don't Remember This"—a short but infectious buzzy synth-laden number that you will remember if you're into this kinda style—and the wildly interesting "Painted Boy Face," an inventive composition that blends an insistent drum loop, plinking mechanized-sounding keyboards, and a strong DM-like vocal from Peterson that closes the album with a bang. The short piano instrumentals aren't quite as memorable, and seem like an excuse for Peterson to just provide interludes between the real songs. But it's not that bothersome, and overall, it still makes Peterson's whole DIY aesthetic stand out. "Remind me why we celebrate/Stillness each dying year/Instead of freaking ourselves the fuck out/Of our boring world," Peterson sings in another compelling song, "Anniversary." I can't answer most of Peterson's dark-edged questions, but the fact he is sharing such thoughts so nakedly is the thing worth celebrating here. And he's doing it with some healthily creative, left-of-center music that makes Broken Spindles' latest, despite its brevity, a distinctive little platter indeed.


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