Thunderbirds Are Now!
isclaimer: I really liked Justamustache. Sure, it was just a Les Savy Fav rip-off, but it was an amazingly energetic and fun Les Savy Fav rip-off. Whew. Glad to get that off my chest. Now that I’ve lost more cred than Weezer did when they came out of their extended hiatus…
I only tell you the previous so that you understand I was pleasantly surprised when “Panthers in Crime,” Make History’s opening track, began with a softly strummed acoustic guitar that sounded strikingly similar to Devendra Banhart’s “The Body Breaks.” “Finally,” I exclaimed, “a band that tries something new on their third album! Acoustic spaz/punk, maybe?” If you got excited about that, I apologize. Just over a minute through the song, we’re back in Les Savy Fav territory again, jagged guitars and all. Damn. “It’s nothing personal,” assures vocalist Ryan Allen. Hey, thanks.
From there on out, we experience another Justamustache (so, really another Inches-lite). Make History is full of synths, angular guitars, tight rhythms, and accessible pop melodies. But while Justamustache was completely kick-ass and highly infectious, History ends up being tired and about as catchy as Randy Moss has been since Aaron Brooks joined the Raiders.
On Justamustache, the songs were packed full of layers that fit together like those fish from that sardine game (I could never figure that bloody thing out) and guitars that wound in and out of each other like a Jonny Greenwood and Nick Valensi jam session (if only). Make History fits together like any other standard punk album with synths, and there’s little interplay between the guitars. Motion City Soundtrack meets Les Savy Fav. Great. And the only song that has a good hook, “Sleeping in the Lion’s Mouth,” gives up on it entirely too quickly.
As if the band’s lack of complexity and hook-lessness wasn’t bad enough, TAN! also turns down the pace a notch. Justamustache only let up for “Bodies Adjust”—a much-needed respite from the incessant pace. No song on History has the frenetic quality that was a trademark of ‘mustache. The closest they get is “Sound Issues/Smart Ideas,” another album highlight.
Allen’s voice doesn’t help matters. Though many felt that he bordered on grating in the past, his vocals were (at least) brimming with electricity. On History, his voice is as exciting as the announcement of a new Neil Young record. He’s lucky that the band sounds tired, too, or he might have found himself sounding out of place.
It’s hard to imagine caring about the vocals if Allen even had something to say. When Thom croons a line about something as banal as waking up and sucking lemons, you feel it. When Ryan Allen sings “the city is breathing through power lines” on “The Veil Comes Down,” you feel like pressing the skip button. And you probably will. The only line that really makes sense is on “We Win (Ha Ha),” where Allen sings, “We’ve heard this one before.” Too true—and last time you did it a hell of a lot better.
Reviewed by: Matt Collins
Reviewed on: 2006-10-18