[30 November 2008]
Bulletin boards in college towns are littered with the remnants of concerts past and the promise of shows to come. Amidst all the cover bands, frat-boy rock and itinerant national acts, a few bands will separate themselves from the pack, defining the scene and, in some ways, the town itself. In the intimate, autumnal community of Columbia, home to the University of Missouri, Scouts is one of those bands. The five-piece blends the influence of shoegaze icons My Bloody Valentine, credibility of indie darlings Pedro the Lion and melodic purity of Clarity-era Jimmy Eat World. Although the band’s sensibilities are authentically Midwestern, the potential for a broader appeal is evident on this seven-track EP.
At its best, I’m Sick, I’m Well is achingly beautiful; Scouts have embraced the notion that splendor can be produced through sorrow and that healing requires wounds. Two minutes of thick, lush atmospheric guitar (“10 Kilometers Past the Signal Fire”) introduce the album before the fog clears, making way for the bright, moderate indie-rock shuffle of “For All My Warm Blood Has Run Out”. While each track spotlights an element of the band’s talent, the album’s two best cuts are truly memorable. “Fight Night at the Ocean House” opens with dark, colorful piano tones before building to an evocative guitar coda. The best is saved for last with “Whiskey Echo Lima Lima”. The tune opens with sparse guitar and vocals that suggest an explosive finish. By the time vocalist Chris Thomas leads a haunting choir through the powerful refrain “Mercy, where have you gone? / We are all dead! / We are all right, though,” the payoff is clear. These are songs which rattle the brain and spirit for days, proposing that the staying power of Scouts lies in their unique ability to unsettle the heart and then mend it.