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By the Neck

(Campers' Rule; US: 6 Mar 2012; UK: import)

Brooklyn outfit backwords have a sound as unassuming as their uncapitalized name, though their acidic folk-pop can also be striking. Though they often present themselves as some sort of psychedelic twist on twee, on the bright sway of “Break My Spine” or the grey nostalgic tones of “Anywhere Now”, the band is best when it stretches past basic pop conventions. “Way Around” is the best track here, clocking past seven minutes and building on a patient soulful space to become a towering, grinding rock song with unpredictable tangles of brittle guitar. It works because it breaks the dreamy feel of the record and surprises with its moody shift into something larger. Unfortunately, it also dwarfs the songs around it as they feel slight and unmemorable in comparison. The dusty vibe of By the Neck is an interesting one, and the atmosphere of these songs works, but as a whole the album never gets past sounding like another nostalgic rock record, because—with the exception of “Way Around”—it never pushes at the well-worn walls it puts up.


Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.

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