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Beer, boys and parking-meter woes

New anti-anthems from Foam Castles and the Rattlesnakes
By CHRISTOPHER GRAY  |  June 16, 2010

indie_rattle_061810_main
UNREFINED — AND MEANT THAT WAY Rattlesnakes.

As if you needed proof that Ron Harrity is one busy man (see: new releases from If and It, Honey Clouds, Marie Stella), two more albums finished off in his South Portland studio hit the streets this season in advance of your summer road trips.

SPREAD FOR THE WIDE EAGLE | released by Rattlesnakes | with Foam Castles + Lapsed Axis | at Geno’s, in Portland | June 23 @ 9 pm | $2 | 207.221.2382
Recently released on Peapod Recordings, Molly’s Jungle is the third album from Foam Castles, the increasingly expansive pop project of Tyler Jackson. (The first two Foam Castles albums, unsung gems Why We Walk (2008) and Night Crawling (2009), are still available for free download at foam-castles.com.) Buzz about Jackson’s efforts spread as the songwriter departed for Los Angeles for a span (his music has been featured on numerous local film soundtracks, along with some Peapod compilations), but Molly’s Jungle grounds Jackson in the local indie firmament. He recorded his latest with Brenda/Treeyo drummer D.J. Moore, along with Metal Feathers frontman Jay Lobley, Tyler Quist, and Michael Beling (of late, they’ve been joined by Brenda’s Joshua Loring and Peet Chamberlain in concert, making for a welcome Cult Maze front-line reunion).

Jackson’s work has an archetypal air about it. His lackadaisical voice is familiar to any guitar-pop (or, lately, chillwave) fan, as his often sad songs are wrapped in a shiny gauze and clever hooks are followed by statements of gravity or desire (“And it reminded me of the garage from Sling Blade/It was okay/And I needed a shine/I needed your help/I needed your stealth,” begins “Garage from Sling Blade”). A few tracks on Molly’s Jungle reach for something more anthemic, such as opener “Welcome to Molly’s Jungle” and “Inventors,” both bolstered by some careening guitar lines and sing-along lyrics (though the latter’s awkward “I will rephrase the question/I will not turn around” hook, pitched high, doesn’t play nearly as defiantly/triumphantly as it seems intended to). Stoner and psychedelic riffs snake up and down the mix on “Took It Home,” which follows.

Most of these flourishes work, but the occasional instrumental rock-out is constrained by the album’s lo-fi environs. Molly’s Jungle is more consistent (and mostly fantastic) in its second half, where the arrangements are more subtly experimental and Jackson’s voice is comfortable and affecting, particularly in the lovely late-night Americana lament “Awake From You,” complete with loping piano. After that, “Myrtle Street” is, of all things, a nuanced yarn about local parking-meter woes, capped off with squirming electric squeals.

Foam Castles take opening duties (along with Lapsed Axis) at the June 23 CD-release show at Geno’s featuring the Rattlesnakes, whose second self-released album continues to refine a sound that’s not really intended to be refined at all. Spread for the Wide Eagle’s first track starts with the sound of a van door opening, and its last begins with the crack of a PBR can; the 27-minute, 12-track duration is a quick rush of breakneck punk songs and the odd pop ballad. Album highlight “Jane Candy” plays like a little bit of both, with Tara Bincarousky hitting some of her best notes and pushing the band into emotive Land of Talk territory.

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