Rippling along a staccato breeze, The Atari Star is the Windy City ‘s rambunctious bastard son. So who hid the Ritalin? Lacking the force of a true storm, but mussing your hair just enough to annoy and demand your attention, Aniseed is the latest album from one of Chicago ‘s less notarized (perhaps deservedly so) bands. At nine songs, the album is still a few tracks long, which is not to say a few tracks aren’t worth a passing listen, but discerning ears, you’ve been thoroughly forewarned.
Culling desperately from snippets of the current independent music circuit, The Atari Star (who actually formed in the late ’90s) offer little in the way of innovation. But Aniseed is no American Idiot. There are at least a few good songs, even if you have to sort them out from the less engaging (read: dull) tracks.
While “This Is Where I Often Pause” is little more than a brainless head-bobber full of unwarranted guitar jangle and far-too many “la’s,” “The Be All End All” benefits immensely from a droning Hammond and revelatory strings. The acoustic guitar and bassoon don’t hurt either, and in fact, create a rather intuitive pairing. The repetition of the line, “Oh yeah, she’s dead in the street again” seems to glint in the reflective sheen of the celebratory bassoon echo. It is one of a few moments of lucidity on an otherwise lackluster album.
“Serpentine” rides a slithering Sea & Cake synthesizer current over occasional keyboard plinks to some effect. Listening to the song, one begins to realize that this is what the entire album should sound like: calming, ethereal, chilled-out (in the best possible sense of the word). Instead it is an island in a turbulent sea of hackneyed rock machismo. “The Vagrant’s Waltz” is another standout, again featuring the pairing of acoustic guitar over a spiritual Hammond drone and (this is the best part) shakers. But it almost seems lost when stuck between the formulaic start and stop of surf-rock anthem “Satyricon Salt” and the schmaltzy, cymbal-heavy title track.
Aniseed would work great as an EP, featuring a few good songs and disposing of the rest for what they clearly are: filler. As a full length, it seems forced, sloppy, and more often than not, uninspired. So the next time The Atari Star threatens to mess your perfectly tamed Morrisey quaff, hopefully you’ll remember a hat.