Review : Bishop Allen - Grrr...
AvclubBishop Allen has broken through to a larger audience than any Brooklyn DIY power-pop duo could be expected to, first by landing the twinkly song “Click, Click, Click, Click” in a camera commercial, then by belting out the ferociously catchy “Middle Management” in the movie Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist. The band’s third LP, Grrr…, is designed to appeal to fans of those two semi-hits; it’s a record full of explosive percussion, scratchy guitars, and fragments of melody that bandleaders Justin Rice and Christian Rudder repeat until they wear down listeners’ resistance. Much of Grrr… ventures pretty far into the cutesy—as the album’s title suggests—but more often than not, Rice and Rudder’s strong rock-sense gives Bishop Allen’s songs enough kick to overcome their cloying elements. And the pair have a knack for super-charged ditties like “Oklahoma,” “Rooftop Brawl,” and “Cue The Elephants” that can make any given three minutes of the day feel a lot happier....full text
AllmusicBishop Allen's third album, Grrr..., comes after a couple years of increased visibility for the band, who appeared in Nick & Nora's Infinite Playlist and had a song from the last album (2007's Broken String) featured in an ad campaign for Sony. The success hasn't gone to their heads, though, and there are no gospel choirs, guest appearances from members of TV on the Radio, or electro-pop dance beats here. If anything, Grrr... is more stripped-down than Broken String sonically, as they take a step away from orchestration and move back to a taut and focused approach that's more in line with the sound of their first album, Charm School. The main duo of Justin Rice and Christian Rudder (along with friends including Darbie Nowatka on vocals and Michael Tapper on drums) put their faith in their songcraft and vocal performances, never letting anything distract from the tricky wordplay and plaintive singing. Most of the songs are built around the standard rock foundation of guitar (electric sometimes, acoustic more often), bass, and drums with minimal keyboards, strings, and horns added occasionally. The approach is commendably basic and when it works, like on the jumpy, very Feelies "Oklahoma" and "Cue the Elephants" or "True or False" (which has Nowatka providing the sweet lead vocals), the record is a lot of fun. The problem is that the similar sound, tempo, and structure of the songs make them all run together somewhat, and if you don't pay close attention to what's going on, you may find yourself at the end of the album with no recollection of what you just listened to. (It may say something that the most memorable track on the record, "Dimmer," is the one that sounds the most like it could have been on Broken String.) Repeated listens help to sort things out, though, and the subtle shadings of Grrr... do become more apparent the more you listen -- in fact, the album is a perfect example of the old rock crit cliché "The Grower."...full text
PopmastersBishop Allen’s last disc, The Broken String, was their “big backstory” album. Nevermind that it was their sophomore disc after a well-received debut, or that it was to be a marquee release for the burgeoning Dead Oceans label. The album was most notably the culmination of the band’s EP year. They released an EP every month for a year, and then picked out and re-recorded the best stuff for The Broken String. The resulting record was a great piece of pop music that solidified their spot as a top-tier indie band.
And now they’re back with Grrr..., the follow-up to the “big backstory” album. Smartly, the band steps out of the shadow of that last album by not trying to top themselves. While Bishop Allen has always had a pretty contained sound, The Broken String had moments that soared to epic heights or chugged with a full rock-band feel. But here, on Grrr..., the band strips down their sound to make some very basic, but very solid pop songs.
Though it feels a little scaled-down, Grrr... has no shortage of catchy hooks. Much of the album, and in particular the first half, is loaded with Justin Rice’s surgically infectious melodies. From the lilting verses and child-like calling on the choruses in “Dimmer” to the light noodling guitar that sneaks into “Oklahoma”, Bishop Allen once again gives us a batch of songs that are so fundamentally poppy that the sound seems both distinctly theirs and oddly universal....full text
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