They’re not the constant hum of sadness you can feel at 3 a.m. on a post-party Sunday morning. They’re not the razor-wire chill of a Midwestern winter, eyes stinging from cold. They’re not the dark, stylized thrill of a Mario Bava film, and they’re not 1968, 1977, 1986 or 2012. The Standard are all these things and exclusively none, and that’s what makes them so special. It’s also probably why they’ve had trouble connecting to a larger audience, even with a cannonade of positive press accompanying previous work, in particular last year’s Wire Post to Wire, where the band locked into its lachrymose stride. If you’re unfamiliar with these angular American sons, you’re about to better yourself.
Albatross, the band’s fourth and second for Yep Roc, opens with the controlled burst of “Red Drop” and reveals Spoon as a close relative. It’s peculiar pop that radiates the sunniest disposition you’re going to find here. A slow fuse burning behind the ticking click of “Play the Part” succeeds in its simmering parade, as does “Not Asleep,” which bulwarks a slipping chorus (“I fall deeper into who I’m with, because it’s the best thing I ever did”) with pastoral piano that intermittently sparks to life. It sounds downright affirmative with succinctly placed handclaps.
Even if it’s not always overtly evident, the expansive feel of Americana stretches like a wide – and gray – plains horizon across Albatross, with Tim Putnam’s vocal quivering like an anxious Bryan Ferry. “You Will,” “Feet and Hands” and “Hills Above” shimmer with the tense rusticity of the National crossing swords with Wire’s A Bell Is a Cup Until It Is Struck, and “Little Green” and “In Waves” feel like paranoid prog, reminiscent of cerebral metal-heads Tool.
The Standard craft dramatic tension like indie-rock Ibsens, making confident choices that are often as unexpected as they are satisfying, and this collection is company line: starkly euphonic, fiercely wound and intelligently constructed. Albatross is a slow bloom of an album, as likely to frustrate those looking for immediacy as it is to reward those looking for substance in repeated listens.
“Ghost for Hire” from 2004’s ‘Wire Post to Wire’
“Metropolitan” from 2004’s ‘Wire Post to Hire’
The Standard’s Web site
Yep Rock Records Web site
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