By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
If Les Americains frontman Robert Lee's vocals were transcribed on paper phonetically, this album's liner notes would fill up the entire Bible. His singling style is a hard-to-ignore, fairly jarring one, as he attempts to drag out every syllable. And that's a shame.
Opening song "Swiss Ave." begins pleasantly enough, with voices at a party or club and some muted guitar chords way off in the background buzzing away until a drum beat comes in and brings the rest of the instruments with it. It stands as a pretty effective head-bobber, and the guitars go all over the place—in a good way—before then Lee's vocals kick in, pulling the song squarely back to the '90s Brit-pop and alt-rock that this band so clearly adores. The following song, "Whatever Happened to Caspar Milquetoast?" takes things a little slower and smartly makes room for a few breaks with fist-pumping returns without reaching the point of overkill.
Roughly, that's the structure of this disc—a fast song, followed by a slow one—as the band scrambles from style to style, as if to scream "Look what we can do!" And there is variety: On "Lions At The Gate," the band maintains a dragging, slow beat and keeps space open for guitar solos that build into a song that's not too far from a Radiohead track. The next track, meanwhile, "The Impossibility of Life..." is a fairly cheery jaunt, despite its dark title.
Altogether, it's not a wholly unpleasant offering. Except for the vocals. In Lee's defense, his voice does seem to get a little better every time you listen. Mostly, though, I just think that's because you get used to it.