I’ve known Thane Matcek, the main guy behind All Transistor, for a few years now, and he’s a great guy, but every time I talk to him, I get the feeling that he’s not quite there. It’s not super-obvious—he doesn’t talk to people who aren’t there or twitch or scream profanity or anything like that, but he’s always got this manic gleam in his eye, and even though he’s always intently trying to explain something to me, I can’t understand what the heck he’s talking about. My fault, maybe, but it feels more like he communicates with the world in a different way than I do; the experience is usually very strange, yet extremely entertaining. Parts is that way, too; it’s a weird collection of scraps and pieces of music, sometimes coalescing into a full-fledged “songs” and sometimes not, but all somewhere on the edge between really, really inspired and just plain freaky.
At their better moments, All Transistor are a fine indie-rock band, with plenty of hummable melodies, oblique lyrics, and full-on guitar, balanced by odd dissonance and general quirkiness—see “Phil Hartman”, “Take”, “Money”, “Dry Run Through”, and “Aquarium” (one of my personal favorites) for three examples. All the best stuff on Parts blends Spoon-esque indie-rock strangeness with Wolfie’s coolest pop melodies, and patches them together so loosely it all feels effortless. The lone exception to that formula is “Chickenhead”, a beautiful, rough-voiced tune that Tom Waits would be proud to sing, and one that provides a nice glimpse at Thane’s less manic, more melancholy side.
On the other end of things, you’ve got “Byshardme”, which sounds like the start of a promising rock song but cuts out just when it’s getting good, the pseudo-joke country of “Steam Ahead” and “Kentucky” (the latter of which was apparently written pretty much on a dare), and the studio messing-around of “Bright, Quick Moving”. Not to say those tracks are bad; there’s a lot of cool stuff going on, but they just don’t feel “done”, like some of Guided By Voices’ not-as-good songs. If these folks can stay focused and keep on the track they’re riding, I think their next effort is going to be one absolutely amazing album.