Received Pronunciation, the fourth full-length by Boston outfit Pants Yell!, is an exercise in brevity. The album runs its nine-track course in 26 minutes, scarcely stretching past the point where an EP becomes a full-length. By this standard, the almost four-minute “Not Wrong” is practically epic, particularly when you consider the shortest song, “Spider,” is but 51 seconds long. With this kind of pace, Pants Yell! could practically qualify as a punk band, but there’s little snot or aggression to be heard on Received Pronunciation. Rather, the group’s sonic approach, much like their running times, is quite minimal. There’s very little distortion, few effects, no elaborate arrangements; just a wonderfully welcoming set of warm and jangly indie pop tunes sans fuss, but with a lot of heart.
When singer Andrew Churchman croons “Thank you Noel and Chris, thank you Frank and Sandy/ A headache never felt so good/ I’m glad I had more gin than candy,” on leadoff track “Frank and Sandy,” the group lends a sense of hospitality to the listener, instantly tapping into that familiar feeling of being drunk with good friends during bad times. But the relatively soft energy level is temporary, as “Rue de la Paix” finds the trio launching into a taut, rhythmic exercise in post-punk sheen, a great tune reminiscent of any of Mark Robinson’s former bands. And frankly, that’s only fitting, as Robinson, himself, designed the album’s sleeve art. “Cold Hands” is one of the few examples of a distortion pedal clicking on, but even then, it’s pretty subtle.
The ordinarily friendly and approachable Churchman gets a touch confrontational on “Got to Stop,” to the point of referring to a friend’s boyfriend as an “asshole.” Yet, melodically, the song is sweetly stunning, with a melody that recalls The Smiths or The Go-Betweens. The too-slight “Spider” is the rare case when Pants Yell! underdo it, but otherwise, their simple, spare approach leaves the need for excessive layers unnecessary, as on the lovely pop sheen of “Someone Loves You,” or peppy closer “To Take.”
More than anything, Pants Yell! prove that all you really need to make a really good pop record is a few chords, a few hooks and a scruffy, cuddly charm. Received Pronunciation comes and goes pretty quickly, but the beauty of an album as easy to take to as this, playing it again is an inevitability.
Air Miami – Me. Me. Me.
The Go-Betweens – 16 Lovers Lane
The Lucksmiths – The Green Bicycle Case
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.