Sometimes people just have a change of heart. Take, for instance, Jeff Garber and Jeff Dimpsey, legends of guitar-driven-rock outfits Hum and Castor. They’ve since decided to move into the scary, dark-pop realms of ’80s and early ’90s electronic rock. A good move, considering what a sinking ship certain brands of testosterone-fueled math rock has become. Now, as National Skyline, Garber and Dimpsey have found an eerie little niche next to groups like Manic Street Preachers, Suede, Radiohead (circa O.K. Computer and Kid A), Pink Floyd (Atom Heart Mother, Animals, Dark Side of the Moon, and Meddle) and U2 (The Unforgettable Fire and Zooropa). However, it’s safe to say that National Skyline is truly in the shadows of these formidable gloom-troopers. In fact, the only number really worth writing home about on Exit Now is “October.” On it, a running bongo beat plays behind a lilting guitar and Garber’s strained vocals. In some ways, this track sounds like The Beta Band at their most accessible, which is a great thing.
The other songs, though slightly catchy, aren’t as fetching as this first one, and can’t carry the record all that well. There are some interesting moments, nonetheless. The morbidly serious “Identity Crisis” has a decent Beck groove to it, and “Karolina II” is such an emotive song that it would make the Bono of Red Rocks blush. As “Karolina” builds in an ’80s-inspired, whirlwind crescendo, the bass starts a New Order run that’s pretty infectious. Without a doubt, there is no lack of sincerity on Exit Now. As an added plus, this record contains, in its brevity, some of the best music to listen to while you do chores (Ã la, all things Thrill Jockey). Yet it’s hard to take the sophomoric spooky lyrics very seriously: “I love you in the shape of swirling gas…” But maybe they’re meant to be a little tongue and cheeky? In sum, Exit Now showcases a few bright moments, offering a glimpse of what National Skyline might accomplish in the future. Here’s to hoping the reign in some of the mediocrity.