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 Selmanaires: The Air Salesmen

Finally, a New Wave revival band who sound like they actually listened to a lot of New Wave music.

The Selmanaires

The Air Salesmen

Label: International Hits
US Release Date: 2008-01-22
UK Release Date: 2008-01-22

The Air Salesman will likely find a home on many a year's best list, and deservedly so. Of all the bands who have enlisted in the current post-punk/New Wave revival, the Selmanaires might be the only ones who peered into the past and saw anything of use that predated recent indie darlings like the Strokes. Listening to The Air Salesmen, you suspect that browsing through the Selmanaires' record collection would yield angular, arty treasures from the likes of Television, Can, the Talking Heads, and Roxy Music. Well-worn copies at that.

The signs were there on the band's debut, 2005's Here Come the Selmanaires. In raw form, the band showed their love of these influences even as their youth took them all over the place. Here Come the Selmanaires intrigued not for the group's breadth of influences, but for the way they didn't let those influences confine them. So you had the staccato rock of "All I Really Want to Know", slow-building instrumentals like "Devil's Note", the reggae splash of "High Tide", and the wiry garage rock of "LMN06" all coexisting in a big guitar-stirred post-punk stew. It sounded as if, square in the kiln of Atlanta's Southern heat, the Selmanaires might have been crafting themselves into the jittery American counterpart to the rootsy free-for-all of Gomez.

The Air Salesmen turns that notion on its head. Gone is the wild, upfront eclecticism of their debut. Or rather, that eclecticism is now embedded as finely-tuned flourishes in the band's suddenly focused sound. Just as the album's title is an anagram for the band's name, their new approach is really a tweaking of what was already there. A standout track like "Nite Beat", for example, with its needly guitar patterns and vocals straight from the Bryan Ferry school, also features tasty little reggae guitar flourishes that would never have been silky-smooth enough for Roxy Music. In fact, the brooding delicacy of album closer "Long Road" and the frenetic thrash of "Just to Get Yr Love" might be the last bastions of that initial stylistic abandon. This time around, the Selmanaires opt for a more cohesive approach that finds them working to turn their well-chosen influences into something all their own. "Verdigris Intrigue", "A Small Room", and "Gmafb", for example, recall the Talking Heads, right down to the clipped David Byrne singing style. It's obvious that when the Selmanaires sat down to watch Stop Making Sense, they actually took time to get into the head of the man dancing around in the Big Suit. But "A Small Room" and "Gmafb" throw a lot more of themselves onto the dancefloor than the Talking Heads ever did.

The Air Salesmen overflows with mimicry of the highest order, but it all sounds like sincere homage instead of shameless lifting. In the end, the Selmanaires do end up refining their sound, carving out a ledge for themselves near the top of the New-New Wave mountain. They're just that good. The whole affair brings up a few questions, though, as we await the Selmanaires' inevitable coronation on MTV's Subterranean. The New Wave revival is already starting to play itself out, so it's odd to see a band throw themselves so fully into the movement. However, the Selmanaires are pretty obviously true believers, and if The Air Salesmen proves anything, it's that they may be one of the few bands capable of taking the genre somewhere new.


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.





Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.


Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.


'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.


ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.


The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

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.