The Strangest Things

May 21, 2003 at 12:00 am

The opening drums go boomph-baaph-boomph-baaph in that way that brings U2’s “Bullet the Blue Sky” to mind. Get used to it, cause that impression ain’t going to change. Echo-y guitars slash chords or play the arpeggiated ning-ning-ning figures so beloved in 1987, and a boinky-sounding bass chugs along in predictable eighth notes. The words “crazy,” “always” and “nowhere” appear in the first song, for no good reason other than station identification. The sincere young men of Longwave have come to call, announcing their major-label debut.

The vision is perhaps a little less bombastic and messianic than St. Bono and co., but then again, it’s less ambitious as a whole. Even when Longwave dive into squalling noise, they still sound mannered and polite. This is the sound of a band of normal, sweet lads trying desperately to add some danger and dark mystery to their songs, and perhaps their lives. Extra credit for the backward Sparklehorse-like tape wibble and analog blips courtesy of producer Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, Delgados — you know, good bands), but it still smacks of honor students playing at being tortured fuck-ups. The patented Fridmann effect is more apparent as the record wears on, and a few direct Radiohead thefts make a halfhearted appearance as well, but without the epic or transcendent effect heard on their originals.

Occasional Richard Butler phrasing is a break from wanting to hold your lighter in the air and sway to the “With or Without You” vibe, but it’s not enough to redeem this earnest but tiresome effort from its sad, lonely fate in the used record store near you. It’s not bad, so much as unnecessary. All in all, it’s harmless enough, but when Steve Schlitz sings “Wake me when it’s over,” one can’t help but second that emotion.

Shireen Liane writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].