From the first taut and sinewy high-tension glisten riff of “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?” to the epic, elegiac wall of carnivalesque pop noise of closer “Wishing Well,” the Airborne Toxic Event’s self-titled EP manages to accomplish in three songs what Interpol has failed to do in three albums: transcend the nebulous deep bass throb and glass-shard guitars of a post-punk heritage and construct an aural world that simultaneously acknowledges its antecedents while remaining firmly original and refreshing. The music here is inherently catchy, but the band avoids making concessions or slavish pandering. Singer Mikel Jolet nimbly maneuvers through his dense, literate lyrics of modern interpersonal landscapes, all baritone croon and DeLillo cool, while the band generates hyper-melodic music that is alternately subtle and explosive, with the churning rhythm section bonding to the understated keyboards and jagged, endorphin-rich guitars of Stephen Chen.
The EP is tight and concise — the terse, nervy-rocker neurosis of DeLillo’s Great Jones Street instead of the joyously postmodern sprawl of Underworld. Listening to “The Girls in Their Summer Dresses” (yes, that’s an Irwin Shaw reference), with its swirling electric/acoustic guitar interplay shimmering beneath a lyrical bed of romantic desperation, you can’t help but wish for a larger canvas for these jittery, panoramic songscapes.