Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Alligators: Piggy & Cups

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Piggy & Cups is a deceptively simple indie pop album. While it certainly doesn't forge a bold new direction in musical genres, it doesn't pretend to either and incorporates influences without being overly derivative. Hailing from the Bremerton area of Seattle, the members of Alligators have been active locally in bands like Time To Fly, Map of June and Arper; if you say you've heard of any of them, you're either from Seattle or completely full of shit. The band's brand of music is primarily upbeat and shimmering, with careful harmonies mixed with arrangements that can sometimes insidiously get lodged in the listener's head. Though Piggy & Cups isn't a flawless album, it's got enough hooks and surprises to keep the listener's attention.

Nearly every band on the planet, from the shittiest garage-dwelling hacks to the most profound group hell bent on making a Big Statement, owes some sort of debt to the Beach Boys, and Alligators - Joshua Trembley, Bradley Pooler, Tyler Lewis, Daniel Lewis and Kristian Arper -
is no exception. To the band's credit they don't shy away from acknowledging this influence - it's right there on their press bio - and several songs benefit from Alligators' drawing from the band's pre-"Kokomo" heyday. The album's major charms lie in its intricate and studied harmonies. Opener "Where Does It Hide?" is perhaps the album's standout track, mixing - and here comes that dreaded phrase - jangly guitars, near-falsetto voices, and polished harmonies with synths and slightly distorted vocals. The vocal approach of "Mama, Stop" is eerily reminiscent of Brian Wilson and is augmented by more of those damn jangly guitars, hazy atmospherics and clean backing vocals. The lights are turned way down and the BIC lighters are raised high in the air on slow burners like "If You Want To" and "Three Fort Night," both of which blend simple guitar melodies with hushed vocals and understated background harmonies, offering a needed change of pace to the album's mostly balls-ahead approach.

Other songs suggest self-editing and restraint would have improved the final product. The vocal theatrics of a few songs sound like a slavish homage to Thom Yorke, particularly on "Original Fear" and "Snow Children," the latter of which could be a pretty decent outtake from OK Computer. Other songs are unceremoniously bludgeoned with overwrought, hair metal-shredding vocals that make Axl Rose's shrillest moments sound sedate by comparison. "Original Fear" is again a culprit, while "Why Aren't You Weeping (All In Your World)" cozies up with similar bombast. Were it not for these vocal histrionics, especially since much of the album is predicated on tight harmonies, both songs would fit in nicely with the album's stronger tracks.

Still Piggy & Cups is a satisfying album. Though its lyrics aren't exactly incidental - songs like "If You Want To" and "Way I" imply a sense of hope and commitment tempered with ruminations on mortality - the songs' harmonies and clever arrangements are the album's main selling points. There's plenty to like here, assuming listeners can look past the band's occasional vocal overindulgences.

2 comments:

Anomiemess said...

Vocal indulgence? Hardly. The vocals are refreshing, especially for the Kitsap/King county indie music scene. This group is talented — the diverse vocals and interesting harmonies prove it.

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