- Welcome to the Middle
By Tim Byrnes
Welcome to the Middle is as strong a first
shot across the bow as I've heard in a while. The Philadelphia quartet
show up on their debut CD with the confidence of veterans. Which is pretty
much the case. These guys have been together since August, 2000, honing
their material and getting their stage bones in New York City before touring
across the country with all the drafty vans and lumpy couches which that
implies. Signing with Universal in early 2003, they released this CD in
September of that year, throwing themselves to the head of the pack in
the many Best New Artist polls. A listen to this CD tells me why.
The record's opener Roseanna' features
singer/guitarist Joshua Ostrander's yearning, Bono-esque (and I know it's
unfair to compare singers, but Ostrander and Bono both have voices that
make the hair on the back of my neck stand up in exactly the same way)
vocals skating a lake of intricate lacelike barbed wire arrangement, the
guitars and keys and rhythm section swerving and slithering around each
other, forming an entirety far greater than the sum of it's parts.
Holy Ghost' is on the art/punk drama tip,
sounding like a car crash involving Radiohead and the Dead Boys. There's
a swagger to this band's intellectualism, a smartness in their strut. The
thing I like most about this CD, and I hope it's a portent of things to
come from more bands, is their eclecticism.
Laguardia seem to understand the oscillating
attraction of blowing minds and shaking bootys. (Booties?) For every section
that's claustrophobic to the point of slight insanity, there's a section
that draws from the soul well and lifts off and up and out into the listener's
world view, setting something important free, sometimes in the same song
as is the case with my favorite cut on Middle, Butterflies'.
Slow, sepulchral and atmospheric movements
countered with jagged, guitar driven sharp sticks to the eye, wrapped up
in intriguing production that illuminates, but never masks the music adds
up to one of the best CDs to come down my pike in a while. I hope Laguardia
sticks around; I can't wait to see where they go next. We're gonna need
em cause, from what I understand, the next Radiohead CD is gonna be so
hip that only dolphins will be able to hear it.
- Welcome to the Middle
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