aec.oli24.2 10/5/18 New
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Review Text Look at the back cover and you'd be forgiven for thinking this is fairly obvious indie rock from the early '90s. With the collage of photos from various sources (underground comics, random snapshots, bits of videos and TV broadcasts) and the handwritten song list, if anything, it resembles the artwork on Trumans Water albums (and indeed, Animals were English labelmates with that fine collective). Give it a listen, however, and there's something else going on here -- something just that much more elegant without being precious, something more nakedly emotional without being emo. The opening track, "How to Make a Chandelier," goes through about three tempo changes instead of math rock's vocals; the swaying punch feels more akin to a roughed-up Tindersticks or a gently arty Factory band from the early '80s. Similarly, the understated drive of "Smooth Steps," with a piano as prominent as the guitar chug, and the Orbison-tribute "Roy," with a spoken-sung verse descended from Lou Reed and Tom Waits, but accented in U.K. terms with more of a slightly bemused croon, defeat expectations. If connections are to be made, perhaps the contemporaneous Irish band Whipping Boy with less guitar heroics could be suggested, or a hint of Leonard Cohen with a softer touch but without any less of the questioning or pondering. The trumpet is bold throughout the album, further accentuating ATS's individuality in a rock world that had gone Nirvana-mad on the one hand and incipiently Britpop on the other. Some songs have a cryptic, strange violence to them, such as "St. Francis," while others, such as the beautiful and blue "King Beer," combine feeling with wry wit (as when a character asks the song's narrator "Didn't you get that from some old hippie song?") as an organ adds to the late-night feeling. ~ Ned Raggett

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