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  All Tomorrows Parties  
  All Tomorrows Parties  
Release Date:
  summer 2003  
Reviewed by:

It's nice to listen to something without any preconceived notions. I suspect I might have been biased against Birmingham, Alabama, band All Tomorrow's Parties had I read their press kit or any of the reviews they provided us. These suggested that this youngish band's material held a debt to Radiohead by way of mid-80s new wave. But I didn't read any of this before I hit play and tried to figure out what I think of the band.

From the first notes of Turns and Circles, the first song off All Tomorrow's Parties self-titled 5 song EP, I thought, "This is pleasant enough." This song has some nice chorused guitarwork with the bass holding down the song's chord structures. Furthermore, there is some minimalist, if a bit formulaic, drumwork behind the scenes. Admittedly, like too many young bands, the vocals are way up front in the mix, but that's not too unusual. Still, the music never quite swells in the way you'd expect within the formula All Tomorrow's Parties are emulating. The vaguely Pixies-esque structure of the song is a little too close for comfort, but the dreamy quality of Turns and Circles helps the overall impression.

However, after listening to the rest of the EP, it seemed like the band was stuck in a recipe for music making. First you begin with the guitar doing something like an arpeggio while the drums set down a minimal beat. Then you add in soaring, pseudo-ballad-y vocals which are set high in the mix. Theoretically, this is so everyone can appreciate the lyrics. When you hit the chorus, make things louder (everyone step on your pedals now!). And then add in an instrumental bridge which just repeats the song's structure. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. As I said at the beginning, this means that the music itself is pleasant enough, but it's very formulaic. The music isn't interesting enough to keep my attention, and the lyrics do nothing to grab me. Itís not that the songs are bad by any stretch of the imagination, but in the end everything sort of blends together. One arpeggio guitar piece flows into another, and as much as I like alternating guitar parts on a musical bridge, doing it too many songs in a row gets, well, repetitious.

That's not to say that there aren't good parts to All Tomorrow's Parties's work. For instance, on Light Waves, I really like the multiple vocals on the chorus. It's the one part of that song that isn't cleancut, if only because the harmony isn't exactly perfect. It's a little charming and reminds you that there is a live band behind all this. Likewise, on I Won't Wait for the Sun, the drums carry a slightly quicker beat than the guitarwork, which gives an illusion of complexity without making the music all that challenging. Finally, the last song on the EP, The Wake Up is easily the best song, if only because the drumming carries the tune and drives the music in a way not heard on the rest of the disc. Still, these flashes aren't carried throughout any one song, which makes it harder for me to pay attention to their overall message.

As I was listening to All Tomorrow's Parties, the comparison I mentally drew was not with Brit-Pop but rather with Galaxie 500 (perhaps showing my own biases). They have the same pleasant droning music that seems like it would be soothing background music. However, unlike Galaxie 500, All Tomorrow's Parties stays with a set and predictable formula, which the band calls "radio-friendly." I suppose that's fair enough, because this is certainly non-threatening pop music. But, as for me, I'd rather hear a band try something different and fail as opposed to repeating themselves ad nauseam.

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