The Gloria Record, Antarctica
Almost two years down the line, The Gloria Record is still having trouble convincing audiences it's not merely a diluted version of Mineral, the Austin band singer-guitarist Chris Simpson and bassist Jeremy Gomez used to be in that had more fans visit its grave than attended the funeral. (Mineral, ironically, always had a hard time persuading people it was more than a prime piece of Sunny Day Real Estate.) Gomez and Simpson haven't had much of a chance to clear their name, since an unsteady lineup has led to planned tours being called off at the last minute and recording sessions being scrapped.
The lineup finally seems to have solidified, with drummer Brian Malone, guitarist Brian Hubbard, and piano-organ player Ben Houtman joining Simpson and Gomez in the band. Of course, even considering the band's new supporting cast, ignoring the similarities between Mineral and The Gloria Record is nearly impossible; Simpson's warbly voice sabotages that plan right away. But the group's only release so far, last year's self-titled EP, proves that the differences are there. At least as long as the audience pays more attention to the music than to the musicians making it.
Antarctica might have suffered from the same problem as The Gloria Record, since singer-guitarist Eric Richter also held that post in Christie Front Drive, another band (and a contemporary of Mineral) that is celebrated more now than when it was around. But that's all Antarctica has in common with Christie Front Drive, as Richter and the band spend so much time staring at their shoes that they don't have time to look back. Instead, Antarctica take its cues from early Cure albums and electronic bands such as Underworld on its recent two-CD set 81:03 -- a reference to the combined running time of the discs -- blending the two until the past becomes the future.
With its ghost-town keyboards and chiming guitars, Antarctica creates optimistic pop for pessimists -- or, depending on your mood, it could be the other way around. Either way, songs such as "Ultra Norsk" land on both sides of the coin, the sun shining out from under a storm cloud. And "Return to Omma Dawn" reveals that Robert Smith may have grown up goth, but he was "Born Slippy." In the end, you won't remember that much of 81:03 is made up of dusted-off memories. You'll just be happy to see them again.