Usually I’m lukewarm towards anything on an album cover that tries to conjure up happy-go-lucky imagery. Not that there’s anything wrong with being happy, but when you try too hard you usually end up attempting to compensate for the ninth or tenth track on the album that you wouldn’t permit your in-laws to hear, even if you hated the ground on which they walked. So it should come, then, as no surprise that the appearance of a star, birds kissing and facing each other, and other fireworks-like album art doesn’t make me all warm and fuzzy on the inside. The proof is in the music, boys and girls. And Katrina Ford, Sean Antanaitis and David Bergander—the trio that make up Celebration—jump headlong into a very odd yet appealing brand of rock on “War”. Think of some sort of electro-rock band like Metric being tutored by the Doors’ Ray Manzarek and the sonic picture becomes a bit clearer or sharper. The rat-a-tat-tat drumming complements the somewhat heady, psychedelic flavor. From there, though, it dives straight into something Hot Hot Heat might be concocting as we speak, complete with shakers and Latinesque percussion. It’s interesting and, more importantly, keeps you interested in what’s to come.
“Diamonds”, on the other hand, is a very light and jerky sort of lullaby that you envision could break out into a wall of guitar at any moment. But it never does. Sounding somewhat like a Jane’s Addiction b-side, Celebration makes the track evolve into something that resembles a ‘50s slow-dance prom pop tune, or an homage to Eric Burdon and the Animals’ “House Of The Rising Sun”. Unfortunately, “Holiday” envisions itself as a poppy Arcade Fire-lite sort of song with light keyboards as well as the higher registers being reached and sometimes stretched too thin. However, the music grows on the listener and builds, thanks to the keyboards, into something bigger than it has any business being. Celebration really strut their wares on the ensuing ditty “Foxes”, a sly little gem that features some sneering on Ford’s part as she asks, “What do you stand on?” The song is part pop and part rock, but its rhythm could be mistaken in certain instances for jazz.
The longer the album goes, the closer they come to reaching their potential, especially on the pleasing and promising “China”, with its bursts of rock at just the right moments. Not exactly relying on a cookie-cutter, radio-friendly format, Celebration takes the high road here with the same excellent result. Yet as well-executed as that was, “China” hits a wall almost as long as the Great Wall. Stagnant and with no real direction looming, the track is stuck in a wave of keys and emotive wails. Just as experimental is “Ancient Animals”, a track that at times resembles ancient animals howling or trapped in a corner and being poked with a stick. It’s a song you can really take or leave, judging by the extended vocals and drawn out syllables closing out some lyrics. Thankfully “Tonight” is far superior, with rather hokey organ touches and a jungle rhythm that shines on the quirky chorus. This momentum also finds itself on “New Skin”, which could have been an early Yeah Yeah Yeahs or Hot Hot Heat hit.
On the whole, Celebration have made the type of record about which it can be said that when it’s good, it’s very good, but when it misses the mark, it misses it by a lot.