The Casual Dots sound exactly how you would expect a group associated with incestuous indie stalwart Kill Rock Stars to sound--which is both good and bad. Their debut's jumble of angular guitar shards ("Derailing"), wobbly country torch songs ("I'll Dry My Tears") and slackjawed strumming ("Flowers") maintains the un-self-conscious, thrown-together-in-a-weekend aura that makes most KRS releases so accessible and endearing. Yet the Washington, D.C. trio's assimilation of this DIY spirit sounds neither surprising nor particularly motivated to break any new ground. Almost every style covered by the Dots--vocalist Christina Billotte (Quix*o*tic), Kathi Wilcox (Bikini Kill) and Steve Dore (Deep Lust)--is done much better by one of their labelmates (i.e., the sub-Gossip punkish blues buzz "Mama's Gonna Make Us a Cake"). In fact, the disc is memorable only when the threesome finds a distinct voice on the final tracks: "ESP," whirring with stuttering, sustained riffs and a whispered spy-noir chorus; the noisy, punk rock prom dance floor-packer "Evil Operations Classified"; and "Bumblebee," whose honky-tonk post-breakup invective seems vaguely inspired by an Eddie Izzard sketch ("You hurt me like a bee/Bumblebee/An evil bumblebee!"). Undoubtedly the Casual Dots' musical agenda is implied by its informal name, but a bit less derivation on their part might have earned this outing better marks.
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