Little Champions: Transactions & Replications

Ben Varkentine

Little Champions

Transactions & Replications

Label: Barsuk
US Release Date: 2001-04-03

It ain't for me, I guess is what I'm saying. Little Champion's new record, Transactions & Replications strikes me as a toothache of a record. Dull songs without structure sung flat and/or out of key/tune. There was almost nothing here that caught my ear, and what little that did didn't hold it. Their sound evokes thoughts that Little Champions are having a lot of fun playing together, but they have failed to convey that fun to this listener. Transparently simple, intrinsically tired "indie" rock that fails to deliver anything I want from pop songs.

Okay, look. I know that some people think music critics enjoy writing reviews like this, pissing all over some band who are probably perfectly nice, and have fans who truly enjoy their music as I do my faves. I'd just like to say for the record that nothing could be further from the truth, usually. I'd like nothing better than to say nothing at all if I can't say something nice, but I have this thing called an ethical obligation to review CDs my editor sends me. If you're a Little Champions fan or even a member of the band, obviously I'm not asking for your sympathy -- but please understand that none of the above (or what's to follow) is said with meanness or pleasure. Between you, me, and the lamppost I'm having to sweat to finish this review because once I've said I hated the album, there just isn't a lot to say to pad these things out to 400-plus words.

I could dutifully report that if you enjoy Quasi, Elliot Smith and the Go-Betweens, the press release suggests you might like Little Champions more than I do. I could say, honestly, that the album artwork is very nicely designed with simulated woodcuts and photos of the band who, again, look like perfectly nice people. But if I did that, you being the clever PopMatters readers that you are, you'd probably still suspect that I was killing myself trying to reach a minimum word count. And you'd be right.

I said earlier that Little Champions failed to deliver what I want from pop. And so what is that? Basically, one way or another, I want to revel in music. I want to be delighted. In some cases I just want to enjoy, in others, I want music to become a necessity to me, something that I can't imagine my life without. But here the headache-inducing drum patterns and stabs at hey-Mom-I've got-a keyboards, repetitious (so repetitious) guitar riffs, keyless vocals, and banal lyrics give me nothing to hang onto, evokes no sense of place or time.

There's nothing here, damn it. It's dead, Jim. Even in a couple of instances where the song starts out fine, something jarring is thrown into it and mucks it up. This album is so not for me as to redefine, "not for me". It may be for some, in fact it no doubt certainly is, but not for me.

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