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Ganglians - Monster Head Room

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Artist: Ganglians

Album: Monster Head Room

Label: Woodsist

Review date: Jun. 29, 2009

It’s officially summertime in America, and Monster Head Room is determined to show a sunnier side of Ganglians. Most of the doom ‘n gloom from their self-titled debut has dissipated in the favor of a little happy-go-luckiness. Proof of that comes in the reworking of “Candy Girl” and “The Void,” two eye-of-the-storm cuts from the first record that get dressed up for their second time around. “Candy Girl” definitely benefited from its initial weirdo vibe, but “The Void” gets an ecstatic jam session that seems to signal how confident these guys are getting. And for good reason.

The weird atmospherics find their balance here in a certain plainness and familiarity, which might be what makes them all so damn charming. “Lost Words” is a totally twee trip filled with finger snapping and talks of grocery shopping, rainy days, and who’s responsible for tying their shoes. Psychedelics in this case result in a trip around town as opposed to some wild freak out alone in the woods. Not that the woods get neglected, either, but this time it’s all about the campfire sing-along with “Cryin’ Smoke.” Someone’s been listening to Harvest Moon a lot.

If there’s one thing the newest Grizzly Bear wreck shows, however, is that this kind of sugary songwriting can spoil real fast. Songs like “Voodoo” have just as much in common with indie darlings like Fleet Foxes as the rest of the Woodsist roster. Less fidelity, sure, but the same harmonious sentiment that’s pleasant enough but ultimately lackluster. There’s no tension and no real reason to keep listening, which means these kinds of songs run the risk of becoming incredibly cloying.

This is a band that benefits from cranking up the conflict along with the energy level, abundantly obvious in stand-outs “Violent Brave” and “100 Years.” Both seemed to have been conceived at the altar of Brian Wilson and Mama Cass and married to the same scene as the Mantles and the Fresh & Onlys. They’re shambolic and primal and ambivalent toward having a good time. Most importantly, though, they’re catchy as hell, an example of what Anton Newcombe could’ve been minus the derivative tendencies and self-involvement.

Monster Head Room seems to announce in big, bright colors that Ganglians are here to stay. Mostly for the better, the mumbling arrival of their debut has given way to a band that’s grown into its sound in a matter of months. Now it’s time to bring it back home a bit. Hopefully they figure out what needs to go and what’s worth leaving untouched and unrefined.

By Evan Hanlon

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