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BOAT

Let's Drag Our Feet

(Magic Marker; US: 10 Jul 2007; UK: Available as import)

If you heard anything of BOAT’s debut, Songs That You Might Not Like, it’ll come as no surprise the Seattle band’s been busy since about this time last year when that album came out. The trio of teachers may not be ready to quit their day jobs, but their music doesn’t sound like a hobby. Ditching the Muppets impressions in favour of more straightforward indie pop, thankfully BOAT hasn’t ditched the personality. Instead, Let’s Drag Our Feet tightens and ratchets up musicianship, with almost entirely successful results.


The songs on BOAT’s debut album were compiled from snippets composed over a long period of time, and it showed in the final product: seventeen songs whose jumble of ideas hit as often as they missed, but either way passed by too quickly. Let’s Drag Our Feet, in comparison, is a cousin: though there are still tendencies to brevity, the group has evolved. Ideas are more fully explored and, once in a while, we even get to revel in a moment or two of pure texture. The material here is presented in a similar way to their previous work—both albums recorded in a basement, with a decidedly amateur-sounding, low-fi sheen. It works here, because it lends these upbeat compositions the authenticity of real emotion.


Singer David Crane has described his songs as “cartoons of real life” and, like cartoons, these songs are pretty simplistic. It’s part of their joy that they embrace both musical and lyrical cliché – but the good nature the band brings to their music easily carries us along despite the suspicion we’ve heard similar before. There are plenty of bands that BOAT sound like—Islands, Tapes ‘n’ Tapes, sometimes Figurines. But that’s not really a prominent feature of listening to the band. Instead, you’re carried by the exuberance and the easy melodies. “(I’m a) Donkey for Your Love” is all edgy falsetto and confident romanticism, with a killer chorus. “The Ferocious Sounds of Lobsters and Snakes / Mom, Dad, You, Me” demonstrates how simplicity, guitar arpeggios and cliché (“everything will be just fine”) still work—it’s rock’s good old hold over us.


When the band lets their songs breathe, as on “The Whistle Test”, the results are mostly sweetly compelling. That track halts, starts up again, and finds continuity with a sweet la-la, ooh-ooh line echoed by melodica and Wurlitzer treble countermelodies. But the trick of tacking two short, unrelated songs together into one track (the band does it four times on the album) is really a cop-out. In the absence of any easily-unraveled thematic linkage, the conceit is just a mechanism to increase the melody count without fully dealing with each idea. BOAT obviously has a bunch of great pop songs still to be written, but they’re only cheating themselves by stuffing two into one, so often.


Because the ideas are good, you’re often left wishing for another chorus, another verse. Crane’s got a knack for imagery – the ice cream truck in “Period, Backslash, Colon” is a signifier of deep nostalgia—and the material’s good for at least a few more repetitions. As they stand, though, these songs invite the listener to return, listen again, and hear greater depth in the fleeting melodies. This ramshackle pop sound’s got BOAT through a second commendable album, and there’s plenty more potential to be mined.

Rating:

Dan Raper has been writing about music for PopMatters since 2005. Prior to that he did the same thing for his college newspaper and for his school newspaper before that. Of course he also writes fiction, though his only published work is entitled "Gamma-secretase exists on the plasma membrane as an intact complex that accepts substrates and effects intramembrane cleavage". He is currently studying medicine at the University of Sydney, Australia.


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