(In the Red)
U.S. Release Date: 24 Aug 2010
U.K. Release Date: 23 Aug 2010
On Males, the seventh album from West Coast smart-alecky garage punks the Intelligence, the band, led by Lars Finberg, hold out about five seconds before cracking wise. “Bong Life” opens with a wicked rip off the titular paraphernalia, then moves on to a good onomatopoeia as several chords of a piano get smacked (BONG!). Like his fellow Left Coast pot-enthusiasts Wavves and Best Coast, Finberg has a fine facility with, uh, buzz and hooks (and humor, too), and they’re all on display on Males. Especially like Nathan “Wavves” Williams, he’s scraped away some of the sludge of his previous work, and Males is all the stronger for it.
As the aforementioned “Bong Life” shows, though, Finberg has no intention of playing it straight, even with the cleaner sound. The push/pull of “Sailor Itch” may cause vertigo with its dizzying riff. It’s a sensation that carries over to “Tuned to Puke”. If it’s any consolation, it’s the good kind of nausea—the aural equivalent of an exceptionally steep roller coaster.
Things settle down, at least sonically, on the album’s middle third, opening up space for a handful of gags and an opportunity for Finberg’s cockeyed worldview to shine through. “Like Like Like Like Like Like Like” is a fine ode to the heart of Valley Girl-speak (“It’s just a pause… I blame Southern California”). Over the burbling keys and surf guitar of “Estate Sales”, he proclaims that no one will buy his crap at the rummage sale that is held after his death. Surely there’s also a few jokes hidden somewhere in the deeply weird xylophone-stumble of “Mom or a Parking Lot”. (“And though I’ve come back / I don’t know where I’ve gone / My beard has become the lawn”). Hey, the Intelligence can’t be accused of picking clichéd song topics.
Nearly 20% (I did the math) of the 25-minute-long Males is devoted to the closing title track. Oddly enough, it’s the sound of a band grappling with its old persona, even as it has spent the previous 10 tracks crafting (well, tweaking) a new one. Most of “Males” (the song) is just a garage riff jam, even by the gleefully, proudly ramshackle standards of the band, with impenetrable lyrics like “wet seats / white sheets / males”, before immolating itself with a minute of noise. It’ll be interesting to see, after the smoke clears, which version of the band is standing on their next release.
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