Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Review: Bishop Allen - Grrr... (* * * 1/2)

The pop-folk duo of Justin Rice and Christian Rudder, or Bishop Allen, released their third album recently, the adorably titled Grrr... The record follows their solid 2007 effort, The Broken String, which was actually a collection of the best of an EP project the band had completed the year before. The album was better than it really had any right to be, a quaint, fun record that established the group as a band to watch. The two core members sing and play a variety of instruments in addition the support of a revolving cast of musicians that keeps the band's music surprising and fresh. According to the duo, the new record's pop sound actually feels more at home with their debut, Charm School.

Bishop Allen previewed two tracks from the upcoming album a couple months ago that gave a pretty good indication of what you'd find throughout the rest of Grrr... if you got the chance to hear them. Opener "Dimmer" was one, a bouncy, catchy pop-rock tune, and the other was "The Ancient Commonsense of Things," another equally bouncy, catchy pop-rock tune. And that's what you'll find throughout the rest of the record with very few exceptions, though the band throw in a few curves to keep things interesting and their sense of melody is enough to make for some great moments. Highlights include "True or False," which features some pleasant female vocals on the verse and well-placed horns on the chorus, "Shanghaied," which is just plain fun, with group vocals and xylophone rounding out the upbeat sound, and "Cue the Elephants," a more rockin' tune with urgent drum and guitar lines.

There are a few weak spots spread throughout the thirteen tracks, like the bland "South China Moon" and the snoozy "The Magpie," but the material is generally entertaining and well-presented with a variety of instrumental flourishes even when the songs aren't especially memorable. While the record doesn't contain the amount of standout tunes that were found on its predecessor, Grrr... is another decent effort from a band that I expect will continue to offer great indie-pop music for years to come.

Check out my earlier post to download two tracks from the album.


speener said...

Nice album for the summer. You use a lot of the right words to describe it: bouncy, adorable, catchy. i might not remember this album when it comes time to do my best of 09 list, but it's pretty good for now.