Bottles of Make Up
Allen and Dennis Callaci, brothers and the mainstays of Refrigerator, have been making unassuming yet heartfelt albums for the better part of a decade, to the general deference of the American indie scene. Their finest hour has still been their brilliant opening salvo, 1995’s How I Continue Dreaming, but the Callacis and their many friends and collaborators have been releasing strong collections of songs, albeit sporadically, each with its own inherent charms and a winsomeness that the feedback and reverb that occasionally creeps into their sound can’t hide.
The latest album, Bottles of Make Up, is perhaps their most stripped-down effort to date. Recorded over the course of a weekend at Dennis’ home, the intimate, hazy-sounding recording is a close cousin to a classic album that was also recorded quickly and filled with empty space (not to mention being spearheaded by a pair of brothers) — Young Marble Giants’ masterful Colossal Youth.
Whereas the YMG album bristles with the tension of English post-punk, Bottles is a distinctly American work, with shuffling country and folk traditionalism coursing through many of the songs here. It lends the album a friendly, lackadaisical feel amplified by the brothers’ shaky harmonies and the occasional flubbed note or bad tuning.
As wonderful as the songs featuring the full band are — especially the goofy “Cigarettes & Perfume” and the sorrowful dirge “Walking Through Walls” — the most affecting songs are those that are stripped down to the barest elements, which allow the emotion of Dennis’ lyrics to shine through. With a simple piano line (courtesy of friend and fan Franklin Bruno), the track “From the End of the World to Your Town” needs a mere two minutes to wrench your soul with emotion as Dennis sings of a lonely, heartbroken stroll down an empty street. As well, the lo-fi warmth of the recording does everything to amplify the song’s emotions.
Unlike many of the albums being released these days cluttered with half-formed, ill-fitting songs and ideas, Bottles is a short, sweet, fully realized piece of work from a band that specializes in just that. At a mere 31 minutes in length, it is a record that quickly and quietly slips by, humming in the background, and over before you know it. But it is one that will no doubt haunt you and have you hitting the play button on your CD player or computer again and again.
Shrimper/Midheaven Distro: www.midheaven.com