Serpa and the dozen members of the Sharp Things, in direct contradiction to
their pointed and mischievous name, have created a most un-dangerous record in Foxes and Hounds.
Created with a sincere
appreciation for the works of Jimmy Webb, Burt Bacharach and the Brill Building
sound, Foxes and Hounds is such a
spot-on pastiche of the mid-’70s easy-rock radio dial that – in a
post-post-rock world – you could easily mistake the album as a kind of ironic
experiment. By contrast, the Sharp Things’ debut, Here Come the Sharp Things, had a feeling of discovery and a
jangling liveliness that reconstituted not only Webb, Bacharach and Randy
Newman, but also the Zombies, the Smiths and Elvis Costello into a strong and
gorgeous collection of orchestral pop.
Foxes and Hounds,
however, feels like a
paint-by-numbers affair, as steady as the ticks of a Timex and only
intermittently more thrilling. There are good songs, such as the bouncy and
Badly Drawn piano of “The Suicide Bombers,” but mostly the songs roll along
harmlessly, never staying long or raising a fuss. It’s similar to the solo work
of Eric Matthews in that it’s all meticulously crafted, with a number of lush
pieces sewn into exacting positions but draping a set of too-soft melodies that
never grasp the imagination very tightly, every edge so completely rounded it’s
hard to find something to hold on to.
The Sharp Things have crafted a
disturbingly pleasant album that never rises or sets, never waxes or wanes and,
for the most part, just is. Which is mostly distressing because it drifts so
far in quality from a debut that promised so much.