Parts & Labor
Parts & Labor’s first two releases – Stay Afraid and Mapmaker – were exercises in making relentless noise palatable to the masses. Beneath all the layers of scuzzy electronics lurked club-worthy pop songs and anthemic rock workouts. By being both accessible and alienating, the discs were nothing if not an interesting listen. On the group’s third offering there’s a definite shift in focus; this time around it’s about making pop noisy, rather than noise poppy.
In this less pixelated environment, the synth odes churned out have a lot more in common with the darkwave/new wave renaissance of the early ’00s. Metric and The Killers fingerprints are all over tracks like “Little Ones” and “Nowheres Nigh.” They’re pleasant enough, a little high on the emo quotient maybe, but certainly nothing we haven’t heard from any number of moody dudes with keyboards since 1980. “Mount Misery” is a step squarely out of the band’s prescribed safety zone, but its cavernous drunken space country waltz gait just doesn’t reach the same plateau as their previous work. The same goes for “The Ceasing Now,” which, after a nice ambient and slightly dissonant intro, degenerates into a serviceable down tempo trip-hop beat.
Only “Wedding in a Wasteland” really captures the 8-bit overload that dominated their previous albums; it definitely serves as a nostalgia trigger to dig them out and pull this one from the stereo. No band should be faulted for wanting to advance their sound, but Receivers’ covetousness of the middle of the road is not the direction Parts & Labor should be heading.