San Fransisco's Boyskout exists in a post Sleater-Kinney universe where the gender of a band's members shouldn't be discussed as exhaustively as the hotness of their licks. Female musicians have as much right to sullen indie guitar as the next wuss but can only distinguish themselves by effectively milking new ideas from the tired template. Though their second record, Another Life, offers signs of a thriving pulse, complacent songwriting lets down those promising glimpses.
Guitar work is consistently the record's most compelling aspect, but the bouncing and varied lines seem trapped in the imperfect showcase of mid-tempo alt rock. When the antiseptic mopery of opener "Spotlight" finally ends on a molten feedback salvo, it gives hope for a continuing intensity that's never delivered. "Apt. 2a" bides its time with Joey Santiago-esque spikes, seeming to build momentum but copping out before developing legitimate power. A trend develops.
A bigger problem is a lack of memorable lyrical content, focusing mainly on girl-girl crushes that never amount to a coherent sense of drama or character. Leslie Satterfield's vocal range is too limited to animate the limp lines. Every word is read as a pout or a sigh, and she often lapses into a forced squeal resembling No Doubt-era Gwen Stefani. On the too rare occasion that she's buoyed by backing vocals (sugaring up songs such as "Everybody Knew") the structure is still disappointingly static.
The lack of dynamism is accentuated by two capable cover versions, both album highlights. Kraftwerk's "The Model" is fleshed out from its cool Teutonic origins, guitar hanging nicely on the electro skeleton. Keyboardist Christina Stanley handles the vocals in a clear, low register, disdain creeping into her deadpan. Whereas the Germans used their detachment as a statement on the commodification of beauty, Boyskout sounds like the smart girls in the corner mocking the airhead bathed in attention. The album's closer, "Track 12" (actually a cannibalization of the Beatles "Drive My Car"), is even more effective. A limping drum tempo gives the still stellar guitar more room to shine, and the final white-noise cascade paired with broken synths is perhaps the album's best moment.
Another Life captures a band that hasn't quite put it all together. The memorabale snippets come when a ragged edge peeks through the slick production, allowing something more revealing than the vague ennui already choking hordes of boys and girls on the music scene. Maybe the members of Boyskout will realize their band is better suited to a cracked landscape than a showroom floor and a more captivating passion will result.
Band: http://www.boyskout.com/Audio: http://www.myspace.com/boyskout
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