Fire Note Says: Anglo-Argentine pair wears influences on sleeves – and scores.
Album Review: The Proper Ornaments album Wooden Head seems, at first blush, just a fun way to play a game of Spot the Idiom: Mary Chain/BRMC black-leather-jacket Spector-pop here, “Eight Miles High” jangle there. But it’s infectious: the record sounds (mostly) fun because it sounds like it was fun to make (although Argentinian co-leader Maximo Claps (!) claims he escaped to London to make the record because his family was trying to put him in a mental hospital, so – hmm, maybe not).
A pleasant surprise is how this record veers between its influences and still coalesces to a satisfying whole: when you think they’re pegged, they throw a curveball (the 80’s crap drum machine of “Tire Me Out” leading into the soft twang of “Always There”). They also have a way with Andy Partridge-esque “magic chords” – the stunning change that lifts the pedestrian to something more substantial (as on the Simon and Garfunkel workout “Ruby”).
These tunes also don’t overstay their welcome: fourteen songs breeze by in 38 minutes, and they tend to stick to the ribs. For a song that could so easily veer into mere Velvets pastiche, “Summer’s Gone” makes the most of its 2:10: it feels like tomorrow’s the first day of school and you’re never going to see her again.
In a couple of spots the vocal efforts approach laziness (as on the Byrdsian “Now I Understand”); but maybe the tentatively asserted harmonies are part of the whole project’s seeming branding: watch what we can do, but you won’t see us break a sweat.
Key Tracks: “Summer’s Gone” / “Ruby” / “Tire Me Out”
Artists With Similar Fire: The Clientele / The Vaselines / The Magnetic Fields
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– Reviewed by Nick Eddy