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[Kanine Records; 02/28/2012]
Rhapsody in Black
Xray Eyeballs’s debut album Not Nothing was a fuzzed-out stylistic achievement, a dark garage punk confection, a perfect gingerbread miniature decorated in black licorice ropes and squid ink. You wouldn’t think the hooky, surfy jams were missing anything, unless you listened to the Brooklyn quartet’s sophomore album.
The recently released Splendour Squalor is rangier than that first release, and there are more detours and chances taken. But while staying within the form of poppy/gothy garage punk, it tops the hip negation of Not Nothing by allowing for a little more human emotion and risky rocking out.
In the process, they burned off some of that sticky treacle, emerging leaner and cleaner in places. “X” a tight, turbulent punk jam along the lines of Masshysteri or Jay Reatard, sits three songs in like a sleek piece of polished jet. Before that, the metallic, necrotic pop punk track of “Four” opens the album with unprecedented punch. The rest of the album varies from low-slung power pop (“Blue”) and polluted chillwave (“Gotham Lowlifes,”) but it’s all solid, catchy, and good for throwing on throughout the summer party season and maybe for seasons to come.
Xray Eyeballs always had great songs with some added noise, but it’s more pronounced here. Here they wear fuzz lightly like a rare vintage adornment rather than hide behind it. The bones underneath are prettier than ever.
Though they had the good sense not to make the same album twice, they still painted everything a nice satin-finish black, which is a nice stylistic move in itself.
Hear “X” in the video here: