Monday, October 25, 2010

Record review: Margot and the Nuclear So and So's - 'Buzzard'

Posted by Bobby

Buzzard, the recent release from Chicago-based Margot and the Nuclear So and So's, is an album you should have if you plan on sitting on your porch and attempting to breathe in the extremely temporary, but no less potent, Midwest Autumn. It is filled with a bittersweet acknowledgment that beauty and sadness are indeed co-conspirators and that we'd do well not to forget it.

Before hearing the first note, I was fan due to the fact that the Buzzard's album art is so arresting. The girl on the cover stares back at potential listener like they've just caught her in the middle of something intimate, but she's not sure if she is going to ask them to leave… in fact, fuck it - maybe they can stay. The cover shot was taken by Chicago photographer Stephanie Bassos, and the rest of her portfolio is similarly radiant and darkly mesmerizing.

The first track, "Birds," establishes a theme throughout the album wherein lead vocalist Richard Edwards draws you in with sweetness and sincerity that eventually evolve into darker revelations. A soft round riff sews its way through the verse in a melancholy, inviting manner and once accepted the invitation explodes into a chorus of "lets have a party, lets have a party." By the second chorus, though, the request is the much more serious "lets have a baby, lets have a baby," and by the third - "lets make it evil, lets make it evil" - things are still exciting, but, as with the photo, we become a little unclear about just what we've walked in on.

The album moves deftly between beer guzzling guitars and tight vocal harmonies shifting between fun and loss in ways Wilco and Andrew Bird are familiar with. If all the songs stayed in that territory they would no doubt grow increasingly harder to remember, but there are also songs that take you into surreal emotional landscape, like the excellent "Tiny Vampire Robot," a song Wayne Coyne would envy. It is also very appealing to see Margot get a bit cocksure and show some swagger on "Your Lower Back." Later, "Lunatic, Lunatic, Lunatic" sheds a sad little light on crazy girls searching for love just like everybody else.

The production is crisp and visceral, giving the album the ability to blend a live excitement with ethereal grandiosity. The textures of the guitars give the songs an immersive quality that makes you feel as though they're surrounding you. The last track, the acoustic "I Do", is a distillation of the sweet, the lonely, the sad and mysterious that seems to reflect the record as a whole.

Upon finishing Buzzard, I was glad I had listened to it straight through, as an album, to get the satisfaction of the total package. I also felt like - forgive me the melodrama, but it is that kind of album - all the bowls had been smoked, no one needed anymore beer, leaves would continue to pile up in the gutter (but not for long), and maybe it always feels like the world is ending.

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