Recorded in Illinois with bespectacled grunge doyen Steve Albini at the controls, this sophomore outing is understandably crunchier than its predecessor. Once again p and vinegar guitar thrash meets bubblegum pop, but this time the melodies are more consistently nagging and Gonzalezs lyrics broader in scope, dissecting the travails and tragedies of quotidian life with a disarming candour, sporadically etched with genuine gallows wit. Granted, the band is still ingenue enough to wear some of its influences rather too loudly on its sleeve (the formidably catchy Im So Lazy mines prime Dinosaur Jr., while I Forgot could be The Lemonheads covering Buzzcocks), but theres innovation and originality aplenty, too. Piano-propelled, post-divorce paean I Am Useful offers a typically affecting gear change, its classic pop chord progressions and aching, emaciated Bert Weedon-esque guitar solo framing mordant, acutely human observations (-Ive got all your stuff in parcels by the door / But I dont have a wife any more… Im going to put an English face on this…-) – more Philip Larkin than Mark E. Smith. Yo La Tengo-like maternal tribute For My Mother, meanwhile, manages to sound both heartfelt and unsentimental – a fiendishly difficult trick to pull off – while the almost countryish Getting Rest eschews the full band thump entirely in favour of acoustic guitar, cinema organ and keening harmonies: an English Fleet Foxes on a budget. It, like much of this fine and not at all difficult second album, is undeniably impressive, but it leaves you with the ineffable impression that the best of Wes Gonzalez is yet to come.
(added: 2011-09-08 09:55:46 )