Midwest Product
World Series of Love
Ghostly International
2003
B-



in cutting down the lengths of songs and thus further embracing the pop song aesthetic, Midwest Product have crafted a stellar sophomore album. The problem associated with such a jump, however, is when some of the songs don’t quite mesh as well with newer, more vibrant material. Because the group has forged three great songs out of six full compositions, the three that don’t quite work sound all the more unsatisfying.

“Bank,” for example, features insipid lyrics about working as a bank teller. The lead vocal is both pushed into the background of the mix and delivered via vocoder, which could lead one to believe that the lyrics are an ironic take on man becoming more like a machine and, instead of hating it, deciding to embrace the process. Either way, the lyrics in their delivery and the way they interact with the live band playing a Computer Love-esque backing are disconcerting and hinder the ability to achieve the heights of the two trucks that surround it- “Dead Cat” and “Swamp.”

Both these songs utilize an extremely strong simplistic melodic refrain- something “Bank” lacks- with live loose drumming. Whereas "Back” posits the band as a live Kraftwerk, these two tracks allow the group to sound like a live Midwest Product. Take “Swamp” and the sonic debris that surrounds the main melodic element. Here the choice is to listen and be amazed at the complexity of sounds swirling around or to be caught up in the blissful structure that the group builds over the length of the song. It’s an enticing proposition, in either case.

The true highlight of the disc comes in its concluding song- “Motivator”- and its accompanying coda. Emerging out of the ending of “Duckpond,” the track allows the group to flex some subtlety. The crescendo of the track reveals the group to have matured greatly from their debut, Specifics.

That album rarely featured a track under five minutes, stretching some of the good ideas found there to lengths that lent themselves to boredom. The new found ability to rein in their ideas and focus them is both a great and dangerous possibility for the group. When they fail to create an engaging work they only fail slightly and for a short time. When they succeed they leave the listener wanting them to stretch out and expand the idea a bit more. Overall, however, at little more than half an hour, one longs for a middle ground between the slightly bloated Specifics and the trim and fit World Series of Love. And, of course, the same increase in quality.
Reviewed by: Todd Burns
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01
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