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Delusions of Adequacy

Cracked Single

Sick Fixation Single



Meow Meow
Snow Gas Bones
[Devil in the Woods; 2004]
Rating: 7.1

Someday, the world will be rid of the likes of me and my fellow asthmatics. Cats, continuing their 4,000 year passive/aggressive reign, will grow in per capita population, increasingly encroaching on our clean, dander-free air. And given the state of blind sensitivity towards animals these days, it will be too late once the remaining masses look up to find a good portion of mankind buried under countless plots of cat hair. It's called natural selection, and it's only a matter of time.

Once this realization finally hits, one other observation may go forever unnoticed: Behind a fuzzy exterior lies a fuzzy interior. Led by the songwriting team of Christopher O'Brien and Kirk Hellie, Meow Meow tap their namesake's yelp with that very truth in mind. Listeners who experience this album in a veterinarian clinic might claim that its music is pop-oriented, with furry edges and touches. But I believe that those pop elements-- like the innocuous mannerisms of the feline species-- belie the music's obviously poisonous external coating.

The soul of this band is more like Poe's Black Cat than Davis' Garfield. Kitty apologists will delight in Meow Meow's "sunny disposition," though their Californian sense of melody suggests these boys were subjected in their youth to some kind of wicked Blue Hawaiian experiment designed to reveal the effects of too much sunshine. The lyrics don't lie. Lines like, "Cracked torn and frayed/ I fucked it all up again," and song titles such as "Disaffected" bear this band's standard, while concessions to warm sentiments are just that. In fact, the tired trick of lapping desperate, anxious, self-loathing lyrics over a sweetly strung voice steers Meow Meow dangerously close to whiny So-Cal pop/punk. Being more than a one-trick pony, however, Meow Meow's lyrics quickly emerge as one component of the whole fuzzy interior/fuzzy exterior sound, and cease their service to the Beach Boys' vocal horse-cart.

Left with only a saccharine voice and a buried showcase of melodic attentiveness, Snow Gas Bones presents an ironically enjoyable sonic portrait of the best of all modern beasts, the domestic housecat. It may coo innocently and walk in a soulful gait, but my allergic friends and I know better: The very lines of its silhouette predict our primal darkness. Of course, as delineated by our good friend and fellow feline skeptic Baudelaire, if you do it right, there can be beauty in that darkness. Witness Meow Meow's sleepier moments, as on "Finis" or in the requisite taped-message-backed-by-treated-keyboards-backed-by-foreboding-ambience that closes "Disaffected". "Amplified Breathing Apparatus" boasts a great, understated fuzz-organ, loops of soft radio noise, equally understated vocals, and vibes helming the transition between verses.

Though all the foregoing is as satisfying as Snow Gas Bones' lack of actual filler, there are moments when the band can't quite stand on all four legs. The toy box piano on "The Killing Kind" turns up the California Effect a tad too high, man: The second track's nakedly anthemic, "You're my sick fixation!", busts this band's usually subtle approach, and brings them that much closer to mimicking their musical ancestry (in an unattractive way). Oh, but that subtlety, when it-- conspiring with quality production-- fogs your ears with a handful of disparate layers, consisting mostly of punishment, it makes you want to pet your punisher. Or you may like cats, I guess, in which case you better just sing along.

-Zach Vowell, August 4th, 2004