The Plastic Constellations
Mazatlan
2024 Records
2004
C+



insert reference point HERE

Let’s start with Weezer. Beginning as little more than a squad of geeks who were fond of Buddy Holly, the band, with Spike Jonze’s assistance, found themselves coddled by a surprisingly large audience of fellow nerds. Over time, Rivers and the boys styled themselves into a still goofy, yet decidedly Hard Rock band (see Maladroit). Instruments were played with more aplomb and choruses were rendered less cornball. Today, Weezer is no longer a novelty. They’ve forged a sound of their own, ensuring us that we won’t have to shy away from our allegiance to them like so many of our nostalgic favorites.

Connect reference point to subject of treatise

Now to The Plastic Constellations. The Minneapolis quartet dropped their Beastie-esque call-to-party debut LP Let’s War in 2000, fresh out of high school. The band then proceeded to disappear for four years (don’t we all?), only to return more willing than ever to R-A-W-K.

Beg question

So then: Is Mazatlan kitsch, or have “the Constys” grown as musicians?

Respond to question…be sure to provide evidence for your claims

The disc opens with a faux Queen a cappella on “We Came to Play”. Overdubbed voices singing “La, La-la, La-la, La-la, La” won’t exactly convince your dad to fork over the car keys, but The Plastic Constellations are only setting us up, it seems. About two minutes into second track “Evil Groove”, the tide of the album turns. The band chases the goofy lyrics “All we ask is to somehow end up remembered / And not to end up beheaded or otherwise dismembered” with a gorgeous instrumental rock-out that sounds an awful lot like a lament. What’s this, then? Did something happen to the boys at college? Was a heart or two broken, a kegger quashed by the campus police? Could it be that they’ve—gasp—matured? Affirmative. A track like “No Complaints”, with its somber guitar and piano parts, tackles regret like it’s a wilting March snowman.

Describe nature of subject

The Plastic Constellations is first and foremost a guitar-driven band. “Beats Like You Stole Something” is characteristic of Mazatlan in that its warring guitar riffs and ominous bassline are as intertwined as Grandma Constys’ strudel. The drumming manages to cut through all the string intricacies via its violence. Vocals seem to be the last ingredient added to the mixture, often sounding like the product of some free-association scribbling. In short, Slipknot they’re not, but The Plastic Constellations do flaunt some beefy guitar work and speed drumming.

Describe subject’s relationship to its surroundings

Not to belabor a point we’ve made previously, but the Midwest can be a pretty bleak place. That bleakness is embodied in much of the music made in snowy towns like Cleveland, Minneapolis and Detroit. Mazatlan certainly conjures the image of four pale college guys jamming amongst grease-smeared pizza boxes and empty beer bottles in a dim, drafty basement. We can almost hear the space heater crackle on in the corner. Though this Midwestern bleakness pervades the album, nowhere is it acknowledged more directly than on “East Cleveland” where, almost incredulously, the band acknowledges that yes, “there [really] exists an E. Cleveland” where “the sun still shines” (occasionally) and “the trash gets picked up every week” and “people sit on front stoops with cold drinks”.

Conclusion

We leave you with “Davico”, probably the album’s best track. Juxtaposing dark verses (“I got some issues I blocked out with the bottle”) against an ultimately hopeful chorus (“Stop fearing the worst and start expecting the best”), the song makes for a pleasingly realistic approximation of what it is to be human. Heavy stuff? You bet. The Plastic Constellations are growing up—on vinyl, in their basement, under a blanket of snow, in Minnesota—but Mr. Consty, if we were you, we’d hang onto those car keys.



Reviewed by: R. S. Ross
Reviewed on: 2004-09-28
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