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Midnight Movies - Midnight Movies

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Artist: Midnight Movies

Album: Midnight Movies

Label: Emperor Norton

Review date: Sep. 14, 2004

Midnight Movies' self-released EP helped bring them to the forefront of the trendy L.A.-Silverlake district music scene, landing them reviews and write-ups in many of independent music's leading magazines. They were asked, as a yet unsigned band, to play on LA's KCRW Morning Becomes Eclectic radio show. Such early attention can undoubtedly work against a band, as critics and fans alike await a full-length release to either justify or discredit the buzz. In that sense, Midnight Movies' first full-length may suffer due to the weighty expectations - it has been turned into a record that must prove something, rather than a record to simply listen to.

Their sound is a familiar one, drawing heavily from Stereolab, particularly Gena Oliver's vocals. Mixing coolly detached sensibilities with spooky, near-goth atmospherics, Midnight Movies take Stereolab and add the Cocteau Twins - an interesting but obvious combination. Luckily, what MM lack in originality, they make up for in balance. Refraining from catchy hooks memorable lyrics, Midnight Movies opt instead for repetitive movements, accented by singer/drummer Oliver's choppy drumming and the minimal laptop programming of keyboardist/guitarist Jason Hammons. Most tracks eventually break into a quickened, slightly more dynamic instrumental bridge or coda, but never quite turn into the predestined cathartic moments. This restraint and balance manage to keep the songs somewhat fresh, and can at their best draw the listener, even if the final payoff never really arrives. "Strange Design" stands out, with its languid groove-cum-chaotic jam, but the slightly varying tone of the album tends to blend most of the tracks together. While this may speak to cohesiveness and help define Midnight Movies' sound, it makes them sound like one-trick-ponies.

Hence, subtlety is indeed Midnight Movies' most important asset. Oliver's abstract vocals never move too far out of a set range and volume, so the minor variances often sound more adept then they might otherwise. It takes some bands several albums to appreciate the strength in subtlety. On their debut full-length, Midnight Movies may rely on it too much already.

By Jon Pitt

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