Well, nothing says college radio like a competent but purposefully obscure band, and Petland fills the bill to a “T.” There’s a sort of strange electronic tune buried in each song – strong enough in melody to stick in your mind, but never quite powerful enough to let you hum it for a friend. The four Petlanders write music about the future, sci-fi, and technology, and present them with the sort of sound that has one foot in a freeform ’70s metal jam and another on a special effects movie. The lyrics are complex and reproduced for your enjoyment in the record sleeve, but none are so buried you couldn’t hear them by sitting still and paying attention. Each instrument seems to plot its own course, yet the result is a pleasantly intellectual exercise in musicianship.
Certainly, there are songs with intriguing titles – “Automatic Sheep,” “Brave New Girl,” “I Blame It on My Robot.” Yet no song seems more meritorious than another. This isn’t an indictment, but the Miss Roboto album is more concept-oriented than hit-oriented. As background in a coffeehouse or a cocktail party, it has a perfect edgy metal sound to set an ambience. As a pure listening experience, I find Petland irresistible when someone in a 3kW left edge of the band station selects it, but if I’m picking something to entertain myself, it does tend to make you mind drift to more melodic possibilities. Petland is a band you really need “to be into” for maximum enjoyment — it’s accessible enough that you’ll recognize the sound and match it to the band quickly, but extensive study leads to deeper appreciation, and eventual elevation of your coolness quotient when chatting up some babe dressed all in black.