Music

The Plastic Constellations: We Appreciate You

Daniel Rivera

Indie Noise-Poppers try to show some thanks before calling it quits.


The Plastic Constellations

We Appreciate You

Label: Frenchkiss
US Release Date: 2008-04-15
UK Release Date: 2008-04-15
Amazon
iTunes

It all ends with those steady claps, apropos to nothing. It's just a flow of in-time clapping. Maybe it is supposed to be a show of gratitude. Perhaps it is from them to us; perhaps from us to them; perhaps both. That's not the point. The point is that it may all be over. It may all be over, and not much of anyone knew that it ever started. We Appreciate You says the title, and one has to wonder if this magnanimous disposition has more to do with acceptance than it does gracefulness, or vice-versa. Ultimately, The Plastic Constellations have chosen to vanish into that good night, and they want to convey thanks to us for wasting some time with them.

"So many friends/ So many friends/ With so many friends/ We're bound to last 'til the end."

Just as they've shown countless times throughout their ten-plus years together, The Plastic Constellations are hardly Minnesota wordsmiths (they leave that to Craig Finn). However, there is a simple honesty and gentle phrasing in passages like this that no doubt lend themselves to scrutiny, but sting in places you may not realize or want to admit. The key to enjoying a band like The Plastic Constellations--besides seeing them live (SXSW is your last chance!) -- is understanding that, in the end, trite as it may sound, the whole truly is greater than the sum of its parts.

These wiry guitar riffs; these spit and sputter time changes; these break-beat percussion choices are all familiar in the world of The Plastic Constellations. Throughout their career, this troupe has developed a mode of operations not completely dissimilar to other bands in their rather dubious genre. What sets apart The Plastic Constellations, in my mind, is their apparent devotion to the art of excelling at being lackluster. This is not to say that they are not a talented band, or even a good band. In fact, quite the opposite is true. However, they've never really been able to have their different talents coalesce into something truly meaningful, as opposed to something simply special. The Plastic Constellations have always realized this, and wear their shortcomings like a badge of honor.

"Don't waste any time/ Cuz we only get one life/ Then it's gone for good."

That comes from We Appreciate You and the song "Hardland/Heartland". It is just a brief example of the labored, clichéd lyrical choices that The Plastic Constellations have always -- and continue--to employ with both pride and vigor. If not for these kinds of empty attempts at anthemic immortality at the expense of credibility, these boys just might be a lot more popular than they are at the moment. However, if not for their willful (almost petulant) dedication to these dime-a-dozen, way-of-the-world truisms and call-to-arms platitudes they might lose all of their charms. And there's the rub.

We Appreciate You continues the structural and stylistic choices that have helped to make them one of the better live acts that I have ever seen (it certainly helps to see them with The Hold Steady). The Plastic Constellations easily blend noise rock, post-punk, and snotty indulgence into tiny pop confections that are as seething as they are addictive. When topped off with the middling to maddening word styling of the band's frontmen, a hyperactive mix of journey and judgment is reached for the listener. We Appreciate You is short, not so sweet, and speaks well to this point.

The album's opener "Stay That Way" is, for lack of a better word, a perfect introduction to the band. It's loud, deceptively messy, smirking atmosphere helps them to latch their hooks into you fairly easily. Tracks like this one seem to help highlight what makes The Plastic Constellations so oddly compelling in the first place. Simply stated, the Plastic Constellations are probably one of the most honest bands around today. This quality can be found all through out We Appreciate You. Notable gems like "Disastrophe" and the aforementioned "Hardland/Heartland" blend up-tempo timing with jubilantly dissonant melodic structures and an all-too-vulnerable lyrical canvas.

The album's best track, its closer, "So Many Friends", provides maybe the best example of The Plastic Constellations' modesty, honesty and, of course, gratitude. Those steady claps that I mentioned earlier start it off, giving way to a barely there acoustic strum, repeated ad nauseam. It is an effortless track that is decidedly uncomplicated with its central conceit that… they've made a lot of friends, and really appreciate them all. The coda of the track has a choir of voices repeating those same words over and over again (the lyrics I cited up there in the second paragraph. Remember?) until the loudness of their resolve becomes a whisper, retreating all the way back to those steady handclaps. Those steady claps, acting as a heartbeat pumping blood until there simply is nothing left to pump.

7
Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

Memoir 'Rust' Wrestles with the Myth of the American Dream

Eliese Colette Goldbach's memoir, Rust: A Memoir of Steel and Grit, is the story of one descending into the depths of The American Dream and emerging with flecks of graphite dust on her cheeks, a master's degree in her hands, and a few new friends.

Books

'Indian Sun: The Life and Music of Ravi Shankar' (excerpt)

Ravi Shankar was bemused by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds and other bands using the sitar in rock music. Enjoy this excerpt of Indian Sun, by Oliver Craske (who worked with Shankar on his 1997 autobiography), courtesy of Hachette Books.

Oliver Craske
Music

The Strokes Phone It In (Again) on 'The New Abnormal'

The Strokes' The New Abnormal is an unabashedly uninspired promotional item for their upcoming world tour.

Music

"I'm an Audience Member, Playing This Music for Us": An Interview With Keller Williams

Veteran musician Keller Williams discusses his special relationship with the Keels, their third album together, Speed, and what he learned from following the Grateful Dead.

Books

Shintaro Kago's 'Dementia 21' Showcases Surrealist Manga

As much as I admire Shintaro Kago's oddness as a writer, his artistic pen is even sharper (but not without problems) as evident in Dementia 21.

Music

Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad Proclaim 'Jazz Is Dead!' Long Live Jazz!

Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad bring their live collaborative efforts with jazz veterans to recorded life with Jazz Is Dead 001, a taste of more music to come.

Film

"I'll See You Later": Repetition and Time in Almodóvar's 'All About My Mother'

There are mythical moments in Almodóvar's All About My Mother. We are meant to register repetition in the story as something wonderfully strange, a connection across the chasm of impossibility.

Music

Electropop's CMON Feel the Noise on 'Confusing Mix of Nations'

Pop duo CMON mix and match contemporary and retro influences to craft the dark dance-pop on Confusing Mix of Nations.

Music

'Harmony' Is About As Bill Frisell As a Bill Frisell Recording Can Be

Bill Frisell's debut on Blue Note Records is a gentle recording featuring a few oddball gems, particularly when he digs into the standard repertoire with Petra Haden's voice out front.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 4, James Chance to the Pop Group

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part four with Talking Heads, the Fall, Devo and more.

Music

Raye Zaragoza's "Fight Like a Girl" Shatters the Idea of What Women Can and Can't Do (premiere)

Singer-songwriter and activist Raye Zaragoza's new single, "Fight Like a Girl", is an empowering anthem for intersectional feminism, encouraging resilience amongst all women.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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