Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Intelligence

Article first published as Music Review: The Intelligence - Males on Blogcritics.

Seattle’s The Intelligence started as a side project by A Frames’ drummer Lars Finberg. From humble beginnings as scrungy cassette tape recordings, The Intelligence has become a real band with real production values on their sixth full-length, Males. It’s a trajectory the band started on 2007’s Deuteronomy, but their latest could possibly be their best.

Like the A-Frames and Thee Oh Sees, The Intelligence mix post punk and art rock elements into their clattering garage soup. They aren’t faux mods in Beatle boots pretending that it’s 1966 all over again. Instead, they meld raw, primitive rock with more complex ideas and songwriting. The garage rock elements give the music vitality and danger, but the artier elements give it weight.

The weirdness factor has been toned down from previous releases to the point where every song here feels like a song. It’s not weird for weird’s sake, and the artiness doesn’t make the music unpalatable. Rather, like a good Sonic Youth song, The Intelligence have a je ne sais quoi that makes Males more than just another garage album. Speaking of Sonic Youth, Lars is a dead ringer, vocal-wise, for Youth pinch singer Lee Renaldo, and “Sailor Itch” sounds like Daydream Nation gone surf rock.
Let’s not oversell the art rock thing, though. This is rock n’ roll, not conceptual art. Song titles like “Bong Life,” “Tuned to Puke,” and “Mom or A Parking Lot” make it clear that The Intelligence leans more towards so-dumb-it’s-brilliant rather than book smart.  

Lead single “Like Like Like Like Like Like” is a short-but-sweet blast that is in and out before you have time to defend yourself. “Mom or A Parking Lot” is a nightmarish piece of psychedelia with chipper but creepy keyboard. My favorite song on the album was “White Corvette,” a punky new wave song that rides the same notes for most of it’s three minute running time until finally giving you relief in the chorus, “It’s no fun/No no fun!”

At eleven tracks in under 26 minutes, Males is over almost as quickly as it begins. Most of the songs clock in at around two minutes, ending before they wear out their welcome. The result is a joyride that maintains it's brainy energy without ever sagging or getting boring.

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