Les Americains

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.

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Eliot Kaiser

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