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Friday, July 23, 2010

Luke Grapples with Let's Wrestle

Artist: Let's Wrestle
Album: In the Court of the Wrestling Let's
Label: Merge
Year: 2010

Coming in first place by a long shot for album-title-of-the-year is this young-but-old-souls British band. The album itself, while an enjoyable-enough snark fest with catchy melodies and clever lyrics, unfortunately has catching up to do.

Merge's sticker promises "scuzzy pop genius" on the front of the high-school bad-on-purpose cover of this album. Pop is right on the mark, genius hyperbolic, but the word that sticks out to me is "scuzzy." There is very little that is scuzzy about this band. Even the song "I'm in Love With Destruction," with its chords left ringing and muddy in the bombastic opening, fails to come off as anything but scrubbed clean. Even the voice of singer Wesley Patrick Gonzalez, while in the vein of Robert Pollard, sounds more hallowed-halls University chap than drunk hooligan. In "Tanks," though most of it is sung at a holler (much like the rest of the album), the guitar and bass act as a sort of precision instrument with the drums keeping metronomic time. Everything is immaculately placed and not the work of a band who is drunkenly pounding through their songs about love and record collections. Rather, it is the work of a band who has studied being raucous, and has managed to create a worthwhile facsimile of the sound their heroes (presumably Pavement and Half Man Half Biscuit) slammed out in between beers and football matches (respectively).

The single, "We Are the Men You Will Grow to Love," does not sound like a band who is rocking out with great sincerity, warts and all. It is meant to be a blog-bomb-newsfeed-all-your-friends-"liked"-this single. It is self-aware, a tongue-in-cheek mission statement, but all too revealing that this is an indie band who would probably look right at home on the cover of NME. There is very little rawness on display, especially on songs like "Song For Old People," whose sing-along chorus of "doo doo doo" sounds like this may be a group of boys pretty sore that their debut didn't manage to break as big as the Libertines' did.

There are some great tunes here. In "Tanks," while it may not live up to being very genius or scuzzy, its skinny tie precision leads to a very memorably charming pop song. Though a bit cute, lyrics like "Not a fleet of policemen/ or faith or religion could give me the guts to talk to you again" are great moments of the kind of vulnerability that will always make pop enjoyable to people. There are a few other moments this pleasant, though mostly in the first half of the album. Afterwards, some meandering interludes and stabs at far too many facets in a band that seems to only really have the one trick. And lastly, the title track which one would hope could live up to its innate awesomeness. I really hoped the band would try to do their own silly version of King Crimson, a well-thought-out execution of clever, epic, prog-parody pop. Instead I get the rawest, scuzziest jam on the album, something to possibly live up to Merge's high-hopes promotional sticker. Instead, it's the most boring part of the whole thing. The album fizzles out with some kind of Yo La Tengo'd jam to which there seems to be no point. A mission statement of its own, stabbing at epic heights, until finally settling for something mediocre. At least it sounds like they had fun playing it.

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