Tuesday, December 21, 2010

#19 Album Of 2010: Public Strain - Women

Public Strain

Flemish Eye Records.

Original SCQ Review

Confession time: my interest in Public Strain grew as soon as I witnessed its cover-art. This sepia-tinged photo of Toronto’s College Street in the golden age (completely made that up) mired in a sudden blizzard may have developed semi-tragic connotations since Women’s on-stage meltdown at the cusp of their fame, but it dutifully represents these eleven lo-fi embers that burn brightly despite being buried in snow-thick drones.

Beneath the cover art and Chad VanGaalen’s noise, however, lies a songwriting foundation that most bands would kill for. ‘Heat Distraction’ and ‘Eyesore’ play off the Shins’ casual melodies with open-ended possibilities, and the instrumentation doesn’t cruise by on those laurels. ‘Narrow With the Hall’ and ‘Can’t You See’ rely on minimalist bass hooks to explain full progressions, whereby the dangerously sharp guitars that perforate a rhythm out of ‘China Steps’ and ‘Drag Open’ are starving to get involved. It takes a resourceful band to veil their disadvantages (i.e. lack of a decent singer) into novel benefits, but that’s what Public Strain is: the smoke and mirrors over timeless pop.

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