The Lights Went Up
Reading through all the press quotes for Anagram’s debut that name-checked Death Cab For Cutie, I was prepared for their sophomore release, The Lights Went Up, to exhibit the same sugary sad-bastardisms. I’m not sure if there was a strong stylistic shift this time, or if those critics severely missed their mark, but there’s not a shade of Ben Gibbard to be found. Instead, a veritable litany of other indie acts like Slowdive, Joy Division and The Cure manifest themselves simultaneously throughout the disc’s duration. The resulting sound is serviceable electo-tinged dark pop. The coldly aloof monotone vocal delivery and chunky power chord riffing of Jess Congdon on the opener “Everything I Have” has the blood of Kim Deal running through its veins. “Drove Us Mad” shines like a melding of Jesus and Mary Chain and The Rentals, while the mantra-like refrain on “Right Kind of Love,” cloaked as it is beneath fuzzy guitars, a walking bass line and subtle keyboards, is pure Yo La Tengo bliss. The same can be said of the quiet percussive grandeur on “12AX7,” a worthy heir to Low’s early catalog.
For the most part, Anagram takes all these various appropriations in stride, making them their own, but when the homage overshadows the inspiration –as on “Not Broken,” a complete derivation of Interpol– it can get quite grating. The spoken-word “Invisible Deaths” which tries a little too hard to be a Kim Gordon Sonic Youth song doesn’t fare much better. Anagram is well on its way toward becoming a vital indie band, they just need a little more shuffling and dilution of their influences to make that final step.