Between the two of them, French Toast founders Jerry Busher and James Canty have been in a half dozen highly regarded DC post punk bands, but mostly as drummers. Earlier French Toast albums, particularly the excellent In a Cave, therefore had an uneasy minimalism, as the two principals switched off on vocals and drums, filling in the interstices with samples and keyboards. There was an unmistakeable aura of foreboding to In a Cave which had as much to do with stage nerves as with the band’s aesthetic. Now, with Ingleside Terrace, French Toast has added a third member, Ben Gilligan, and upped the confidence level considerably. Menace hovers in the corners of cuts like “Secrets” and “Treason”, where shimmers of guitar float on dark, echoey silences. The coiled restraint of “Breznev 333” is particularly compelling (as is its whispery widely-spaced refrain of “Not everybody wants to be a money-grubbing killing machine”). Still elsewhere, as on the razor-y sharp, staccato riffed, “Take Me All the Way” the boys of French Toast seem poised for good times, maybe even a party. Opener “The Letter” has a lush, chiming melody, that’s almost jangle pop, contrasted against “Wasn’t He Great”, with its country flavor. All of these cuts are fine, some of them very fine, but they are dramatically different from each other, and from French Toast’s earlier work. The result is an album that’s more accomplished and varied, but less arresting than In A Cave, still their best to date.
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