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A Cricket In Times Square - A Cricket In Times Square

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Artist: A Cricket In Times Square

Album: A Cricket In Times Square

Label: High Two

Review date: Apr. 5, 2005

Take the sound of a guitar drenched in reverb. Now take away the guitar. What remains is a ghostly ambience, A Cricket In Times Square’s secret weapon. On its face, this Seattle-by-way-of-D.C. band’s self-titled album contains six cuts situated somewhere between indie-pop and garage punk, by turns sweetly melodic and bluntly aggressive. Singer/guitarists Michael Tyler and John Wood display fretboard repertoires filled with psychedelic posturing and calculated noise freakouts, while their earnest, laconic mumblings exhibit an ease not heard since the height of the shoegazer era. A Cricket In Times Square aren’t aiming for precision; they don’t play together as much as occupy the same sonic territory at roughly the same time. As a band, they are mostly unremarkable. Their album is frequently astonishing. This is not a coincidence.

Start with the group’s showpiece “Blood From Heaven,” a thundering four and a half-minute collision between the folkier side of the Velvet Underground and SST-era Sonic Youth, with Wood’s clanging guitar work erupting midway through the song into a squall like piles of scrap metal falling from a great height onto a concrete parking lot. The onslaught of string scraping is compelling in a kind of sub-Robert Quine way (explored at even greater length in a painfully extended solo on “Outliving Your Shadow”), but it’s not the sort of thing you remember beyond its immediate confines. Where A Cricket In Times Square’s album transcends the sum of its parts is in the foggy presence that seeps out of the cracks in between the notes, swelling to fill the space between the listener and the immediate grasp of the music’s component parts. “Mourning Son” sounds at first like a Smashing Pumpkins retread with its placidly melodious verses and shouty overdriven choruses, though the Smashing Pumpkins were never this shambolic. Cricket have mastered the art of the satisfyingly noodly outro, no mean feat in these wham-bam-thank-you-Franz times. The final minute of “Mourning Son” is better than a lot of psych revivalist bands’ entire albums, the guitars bobbing and weaving with confidence and a touch of gracefulness. There are clichés and blatant thefts scattered throughout, but they don’t ruin the band’s strangely narcotic and undoubtedly intentional hallucinatory effects.

Trying to pinpoint the exact source of the Cricket’s appeal is practically impossible. It’s hard to believe that the album was produced by the band itself, and not a svengali-figure who took their gritty demos, slapped on mountains of reverb, and baked the tapes in an oversized clay oven. Failing that, the only reasonable explanation is that the band wanted it to sound like this. They may even have known what they were doing.

By Dave Morris

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