Even bands that have etched their signature sounds into our heads have a little sonic deviance weaved within. It’s only when the band – or one member of the band – devotes itself to that rogue sound does it become really evident.
Take Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, which always had this doomed, dark fuzz vibe in its albums but every now and then this stripped down bluesy twang would surface. Last year, the band’s devoted its third (and phenomenal) album Howl to just that. How about Jon Spencer, who after hinting at it in the past with his spazz-out Blues Explosion project, devoted most of 2004 to Heavy Trash, his booze-soaked bastardized rockabilly collaboration with Matt Verta Ray?
Or, what about Chris Lopez, the genius behind the great overlooked indie paladins Rock-A-Teens? That band’s music always had an eerie glee, but deep beneath it all was some cloudy, sunny pop yearning to break free. Lopez, who plays most of the instruments on Knitting Needles and Bicycle Bells, lets those urges break free with the saccharine-organ-induced Tenement Halls. Lopez sounds like the long lost bastard son of Guided by Voices’ Bob Pollard; his songwriting showcases this kind of semi-illuminant pop that’s infused with sugar-coated placidity.
“Silver From the Slit” spins and bobbles like a melancholy carousel ride, and if numbers such as “As Long As It Takes” shows anything, it’s that Tenement Halls has a knack for creating pop that can be simultaneously opulent and hazy. Speaking of opulent, tracks such as “My Wicked Wicked Ways” are glittery enough to win a Tony Award, and fans of the Magic Numbers will relish in the rainy-day folk of “Charlemagne.” Because of its mood, Knitting Needles and Bicycle Bells should appeal to fans of the Arcade Fire’s Funeral, as well.