PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


The Complete Strategist: We Care

Jason MacNeil

Glistening tight pop from a group caught between Philly and New York that would make Rivers Cuomo and Andy Partridge take note.

The Complete Strategist

We Care

Label: Happy Home
US Release Date: 2005-04-26
UK Release Date: Available as import

The Complete Strategist is a small band from eastern Pennsylvania but basically is the foundation for lead singer Billy Kilgannon to practice his tunes that pay homage to timeless power pop in the style of Weezer and, especially, XTC. Along with his three band mates, you think that he's trying to apply for some '70s-era FM band initially during "Pyrosis". Fortunately those three guys cut the light, Hidden Cameras-ish start and plug in and proverbially put out. The song follows the formula that has made Jimmy Eat World so damn successful, although there is a sweetness here found occasionally in other bands. The oddity has to be the rather bizarre tempo or time keeping of the drummer, who plays as if the CD itself has skipped or missed a beat or two. It's a shift that comes from leftfield and only a band like Sloan might be able to pull off without any head-shaking. After hearing this again 90 seconds in, it really throws the listener off, resembling a tune horribly spliced together.

This aberration aside, the band can deliver well-crafted gems such as "Ilend", which is dour and down-tempo. No curveballs are thrown here and the band nails the melancholic ditty exactly as it should be performed. The guitars come and go in the tune, at times brimming just under the surface. It atones for the previous good song gone haywire. "Patient With the Swiss Army" fits somewhere between the quality of the previous two tracks, its organ opening leading into a softer and gentle acoustic pop effort. "Raiders in the kin-country / Fostering ideas privately," Kilgannon sings and then lets the high harmonies settle in. But the drums add oh-so-much here, making it get its footing and then go with the flow. And a few "la la la" sing-a-longs certainly never hurt anyone. Think of a reunion track Haircut 100 might attempt and it should give you an idea. The electro-tinged coda isn't too tough to swallow as it peels the song down to its core and then build on top of it.

Perhaps "the" XTC track is "Albany" which has all the strengths and balances of Partridge and his merry men who never tour. The Complete Strategist uses everything to make the track work flawlessly, even if it's not as sweet as "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" or "Senses Working Overtime". Playful and brimming with a catchiness that is rarely bottled, the number begins to fade before gaining its second wind. "Get Outta Town!" is simply perfect planned power pop, a ditty that you know where it's going way ahead of time but still can't help but watch yourself glide into the tune with relative ease. It's also a perfect start for a long summer drive -- breezy but still packing oomph.

The second half starts with the somber and melancholic "I Was Silver", which doesn't quite hit the mark despite the strong vocals and rhythm section propelling things along. "Ro Jo" is a real puzzler whose sound is book-ended like a number by the Police before veering straight into an indie-meets-roots pop domain for the meatier, middle portion. Again the chorus is sheer gold yet the verses fall flat. The Complete Strategist has shown the listener what they can do, but they keep beating you over the head with its joyous results. Such is the case with "Anyone Stupid Enough" and its distant, shadowy vocals.

The Complete Strategist finishes up with "The Knowledge". It is a decent coda to this very pleasing, surprisingly well-crafted bucket of pop nuts and bolts.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.