Best Boy Electric: Songs of Latitude and Longitude


By PopMatters Staff

Best Boy Electric is cut from the same soft-/slow-core cloth as such mid-to-late-‘90s luminaries as Bedhead and Low. Indeed, if it helps, the band features former Low bassist John Nichols (now on guitar), and current Low member Alan Sparhawk recorded all but the ninth and final track on Songs of Latitude and Longitude. Where Bedhead’s (a band I have just recently gotten WAY into, by the way) blend of clean guitar tones, almost-whispered vocals, and slow-as-molasses tempos was all about intensity and atmosphere, and celebrated latter-day practitioners Pedro the Lion use a similar less-can-be-more formula in pursuit of emotional catharsis, Best Boy Electric is more about creating enough space to let a good melody flourish. Whereas I get the sense that those three aforementioned bands write songs that really can only be played that way (wonderfully, I might add), Best Boy Electric writes pop songs that, with just a couple exceptions, just HAPPEN to be played with, as their own Web site describes, “a slow but dynamic mix of minimalist guitar, keyboards, and drums.”

Another way to explain it: what Best Boy Electric does best on Songs of Latitude and Longitude is figure out the bare minimum needed to put the song across, and execute that bare minimum perfectly. Vocal harmonies appear sparingly, but in all the right places. Keyboards are used wonderfully—never overdone or “tacked on” as seems to be happening more and more frequently as the ‘80s “electronic rock” backlash has been swinging the other way (mostly superficially, it seems) in the last couple years—but rather as a fully-integrated piece of the slow-core puzzle. You know, I wish the term “soft rock” didn’t have such negative connotations, because this is what “soft rock” SHOULD be all about.

The reason Songs of Latitude and Longitude doesn’t get a higher rating, though, is that the songs are a little too indistinguishable from each other. Each song melts into the next like a lazy afternoon, pardon the mangled simile. The album leaves its mark as a whole, but only the fourth song “Boxing Day” is stuck in my head the next day. Still, while those 40 minutes of latitude and longitude are unwinding, I’ve got little to complain about.

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