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  The End of the New Country  
  Get Help  
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Here at EvilSponge HQ, Brendan distributes promo albums and EPs based on perceived interest by the reviewer. Thus, the new album from NYC's Get Help, The End of the New Country landed on my desk because, as Brendan said, "The press release mentions The Rock*a*Teens, and they use the asterisks, so I don't think they're talking about the rockabilly group." So I checked out the afore-mentioned press release and indeed, there in the middle of the page, was a line indicating that this record is "a salute to the bands they loved: early-era R.E.M. and The Rock*A*Teens; the sweeping majesty and pin-drop sparseness of Built to Spill and Yo La Tengo; and Pollard-esque churning guitars." Now, back in the day when they were still extant, Atlanta's The Rock*a*Teens were my favorite band, so of course I would be interested in any music that overtly references this somewhat obscure band.

However, there is always one danger in referencing a group with such a distinctive sound and a dedicated (if small) fan base is that the listener will examine the music closely, straining to hear the similarities which the comparison invokes. In other words, based on the quote above, I was expecting a record filled with too much reverb and 6/8 time signatures, possibly backed with jangly, chorused guitars and perhaps some spacey-noodling. However, Get Help's two members, Mike Ingenthron and Tony Skalicky. haven't really created that. Rather, The End of the New Country is filled with nicely-done, catchy tunes that recalls a combination of a Southern Indie band like The Fairburn Royals and the sunnier, more languid singer-oriented music of a group like The Layaways or even Rochester Fosgate.

The End of the New Country begins with Traveler's Shave Kit, a gently strummed, almost acoustic tune where the vocals actually do bear a similarity to early Michael Stipe. From there the band moves on to the noisier and more energetic It Begins Well, which features a different vocalist singing over a straight-forward chord progression that is echoed throughout all of the instrumentation. It's a happy little song which has enough effects in the music to not get stuck in singer-songwriter territory. Likewise, the next song, which is the title track, maintains the driving energy, courtesy of a rapid bass line and some quickly paced drum work, which is enhanced by a little guitar feedback and noise.

The band mellows out with All Else Fails, which features a slight Southern twang and whose languid, echo-laden guitar brings to mind a less-claustrophobic tune by Parker and Lily. The echo continues through Sunlight's Revenge,a minute-long instrumental where you can almost hear the phase-shifting in the guitar over some light burbling, organic keys. It's one of the more interesting snippets on the record, and suggests that Get Help could do some nice electronica, if they so chose. However, the next song, Punishing Good Deeds, harnesses the slight twang of All Else Fails, speeds it up and intensifies it, and veers dangerously towards singer-songwriter territory.

But the best song on the album comes next. Fall-in-Love-to Song features fast moving, alternating guitar/bass lines with a foot-tapping beat. Furthermore, the song has a crystal crisp acoustic guitar in the background, lower-pitched vocals (a la Michael Gira) and a well-punctuated chorus, which really brings everything together into a nicely done pop song. In contrast, Red Jacket Orchards has more effects, enough to almost mask the melody, but still keeps a nice pace through its play with different volumes and intensity. It's a song like this which makes me understand the comparison to Yo La Tengo or Bob Pollard. The accuracy of this comparison is re-affirmed with Temporary Speed Zones, a tune which begins in a somewhat mellow vein, before the guitar effects kick in and almost overwhelm things again.

In contrast, Life is Full of Surprises harkens back to All Else Fails, albeit with a quick lovely organ solo which takes up the bridge section. This little addition, along with some ethereal, higher pitched keys in the background takes what should be a simple tune and makes it infinitely more pleasant. After another quick instrumental, The Town Fires comes back as a straight forward, soft pop tune. It's a song like this that I really hear the similarities to The Layaways, whose earlier songs were always well done and gentle. The softness appears to continue with Carne Asada, which again has a emphasis on the vocals and a bouncy melody.

The End of the New Country concludes with the one-two punch of the bouncy, poppy I Don't Have the Stomach with its repeated refrain and the echo-laden Growing Circles. I Don't Have the Stomach is one of the best songs on the album, after Fall-in-Love-to Song, with its nice pacing and catchy melody. Likewise, Growing Circles is the one song on the album where Get Help ladles on enough effects to finally invoke the memory of The Rock*a*Teens, so that you hear instruments and drones which probably aren't actually present on the record.

After more than a few listens, I'm glad Brendan handed me this record, even if it was based on an erroneous comparison, at least to my ears. However, sometimes you have to think that those press sheets are there to drive interest and even if the resemblance isn't exactly apt, I can imagine that people who like the bands named by Get Help might very well enjoy this record. Certainly, in the end, I did.

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