In time of momentary meditation that one finds after the mind’s numbness of the day has finally receded, one might think to themselves, are Toad the Wet Sprocket the new Pixies? Well, maybe that thought would occur with the right provocation. In my case it’s listening to Bitter Bitter Weeks, one among countless other bands I’ve encountered in this half of the decade who are taking back whatever is left of the supposed rape of pop music in the late ’90s by adding muscle to the wimpy tenth rate REM of the mid ’90s. It’s no secret that in the process of making pop hip, the recent slew of bands has been suffering through an identity crisis comparable only to a dad who tries to identify with his drug-addled kids by wearing an orange shirt. Brian McTear’s project seems to be a meshing of multiple crises.
The equation is quite simple. One only needs to take the precious pop of the Shins or, to a lesser extent, Rouge Wave and Sean Na Na, subtract the poetics of hallucinogenic/witty/eccentric fancy and add the poetics of a mopey Bard student. Hence the post-grunge comparison: cloudy day lyrics put to soaring, angelic vocals and expertly arranged, fully produced songcraft. Mix CDs will be awash in the tide of such pitter-pattering of hearts and the tugging of their strings—or something like it. Several of these said indicators can be heard off of the album. Songs have the polar magnetic attraction of grayish melancholy and ribald hooks of cavity-inducing pop. McTear mopes over the state of chicks, capitalism, the future and perhaps life in general, but at times he’s inexplicably stoked as well. It’s almost as if he’s blasting his guitar from atop a hill letting every kid (at heart?) in America know that he’s more than willing to forget his problems and help them sway away among theirs.
All tear-jerking aside, this disc does not lack advantageous consistencies however. There is a constant sense of control as one goes from song to song on the album. Everything is where it should be and nothing—sappiness aside—is dealt in excess. It’s more evident that Brian McTear’s confidence is more pervasive in his studio tweaking than in his songwriting. I can’t go quite as far as to say that McTear lacks vision when it comes to stringing notes into an entire song, he’s not making this shit up as he goes along. But some of the grandest of ideas have come from behind the soundboard, and McTear—the same possibly goes with his partner Amy Morrissey—is all about grandness. McTear has a seasoned set of ears, and his project doesn’t entirely waft aimlessly from one recycled idea to the next. This is one of countless reminders that even overreaching ambition can at least sound pretty.
Luna – Pup Tent
The Trouble With Sweeney – Play Karen and Others
The Shins – Oh, Inverted World