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Delusions of Adequacy

Cracked Single

Sick Fixation Single


Meow Meow, "Snow Gas Bones"
Devil in the Woods

Since real originality is unattainable for most artists these days, interest in their work has to be sustained by their success or failure at varying the tried-and-true rock ’n’ roll formulas in creative ways. Los Angeles foursome Meow Meow have twiddled all the right knobs with their debut album, Snow Gas Bones, which manages to take the squealing, squalling electric guitar distortion of bands like the Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine and blend it with, on the one hand, the slow-tempo moodiness and emerging angst of mid-period Pink Floyd and, on the other hand, the sweet harmonies and catchy melodies of the Beach Boys and even the Beatles. Hard to imagine, you say? But Snow Gas Bones surprises like that for most of its 48-minute length. These guys aren’t just tossing it off.

Christopher O’Brien, Kirk Hellie (these two are both credited on the sleeve with “vocals, guitars, keys, bass, etc.”), Michael Orendy (bass, keys, vocals), and Norm Block (drums) convincingly demonstrate that they’ve been working on these multi-layered compositions for quite awhile, and that there was serious concentration on getting the right balance between the heavily processed guitar static and the buoyant pop melodies and smooth harmonies. Check out “Sick Fixation,” which is vaguely reminiscent of the Dave Clark Five and other classic ’60s bands in its melodic thrust, but thoroughly modern (or at least thoroughly early ’90s) in its surging guitar and dense production. What a great song! It’s the kind of tune you want to crank up loud on your car stereo. “The Killing Kind,” despite its bursts of piercing atonality, features a sweet vocal by O’Brien, inventive percussion, and background harmonies that recall the Beatles “You Won’t See Me.” As each song like this goes by, you become more and more convinced that this is a genuinely cool band, one with intelligence and the patience to concoct something fresh in the studio.

The epic “Amourosis” is a seven-minute stunner that’s like a collaboration between John Lennon and Pink Floyd, crazy as that must sound. There’s an “I’m Losing You” vibe in the melody and vocal, but some deep minor-key disconnection and frenzied outbursts on guitar and synth that are undoubtedly a little prog-rocky. “Finis” is pretty classic melancholy stuff—and just plain pretty, by the way. The arrangement is a marvel; love that ghost in the machine haunting the track, and the shiver-inducing ambient harmonies. Things get rockin’ again with “All I Ever Got,” which deserves to be played on the radio, damn it, and “Disaffected,” which conveys that exact state by distorting the hell out of everything on the track, including the vocal. It’s almost My Bloody friggin’ Valentine!

After seeming to peak a few different times, the album soars to even greater heights with the closing trio of “Amplified Breathing Apparatus,” “Known to Man,” and “Wear You Down.” These are oddly sweet, contemplative, gorgeous tunes on which falsetto vocals (on the first two) and some acoustic guitar add rich surprises to an already surprising album, creating a memorable finish. Snow Gas Bones is a success on almost every level, and deserves to gain some attention for these thoughtful Californians. After enduring a fair number of dogs in the CD pile so far this year, it’s nice to report that this recording is truly the cat’s Meow Meow… - Kevin Renick