Monday, August 13, 2012

Spanish Moss And Total Loss - Shout Out Out Out Out (SUMMER ALBUMS 2012)

Spanish Moss And Total Loss

Shout Out Out Out Out
Normals Welcome Records.

SCQ Rating: 76%

“We do play fun dance music, but the lyrical content is usually a little more dire. In terms of lyricism, it's always been important to me to be singing about things that are actually going on, and difficult for me, but I don't want the band to be a total bummer all the time.” – Nik Kozub, from Exclaim! interview

Everything from the band’s name down to the reputation of their catalog has seemingly hinged on a party ethic – their name elongated for mind-bending reveries, their fat beats primed for speakers aimed sloppily out of bedroom windows. At least that’s how I viewed the band and their loyal audience: as cosmic kids more interested in raising heartbeats per minute than delivering double-edged swords so sharp, they’re nearly bipolar. But that’s the clever prick of Spanish Moss And Total Loss, a carefully nuanced paradox that hides a lot of heartbreak behind the party exterior.

While Nik Kozub makes clear that the band’s matching of good vibes and sour lyrics has been a well-trodden approach, it’s arguably never been as addicting as on Spanish Moss And Total Loss. Of course it never hurts to have a barn-burning opener like “Now That I’ve Given Up Hope, I Feel Much Better” to launch things properly, its elastic bass and handclap rhythm thrown off-kilter by a haunted piano refrain. From that highlight, Shout Out Out Out Out dive into spaced-out kosmiche (“How Do I Maintain, Part 3”), vocoder-fed techno (“Wayward Satellite”) and saxophone-assisted electro-pop (“Never the Same Way Twice”) without betraying the emotional duality that creates their simmering conflict.

The Edmonton-based six-piece don’t repeat themselves although their template does show some dilution by the time “Knowing” lurches tepidly to a close. Preceding track “Lessons In Disappearing” anticipates that soft collapse, taking the swagger from late disco on an autopilot romp. One could argue that Spanish Moss And Total Loss bails on the party by its final third but, more than likely, the back-end’s busy synths provide an artifice to distract from the band’s declining emotional commitment. Maybe that numbness is an honest result after the party’s peak has passed, or who knows – maybe Shout Out Out Out Out are lessening their grip on the vocoder in order to express deeper analog-based chasms. 

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