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The Intelligence - Everybody’s Got It Easy But Me

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Artist: The Intelligence

Album: Everybody’s Got It Easy But Me

Label: In the Red

Review date: Oct. 4, 2012

Lars Finberg has always incorporated oddball quirks — dissonant vocals, unorthodox instrumentation, left-field lyricism — into The Intelligence albums, and Everybody’s Got It Easy But Me is no exception. For starters, he spends the middle third of opener “I Like LA” counting (up and up and up) over a drum machine. It’s one of his more maddening syntheses of by-the-book punk and bizarre flourishes; to his credit, he doesn’t stick to these weird forays, only utilizing them occasionally. Thus, the album’s biggest head-scratcher is trying to figure out the concept at hand, or whether one exists at all.

Finberg has always made it a point to change his pitch up. With 2010’s Males, Finberg made a sharp right turn from Fake Surfers’ bedroom weirdness into brief bottle rockets of songs that sound far tighter than their slacker anthem titles (“Bong Life” and “Turned to Puke”) would lead one to believe. Fake Surfers also showed an appreciation for the ’60s laidback melodies, analog production and reverb that has populated college radio airwaves over the past five years, but Finberg involved disparate sounds that wouldn’t have married well in anyone else’s hands.

Still, each of these albums had a cohesiveness that Everbody’s Got It Easy But Me lacks. The album almost sounds like it’s having a bit of an identity crisis, throwing ideas against the wall and trying to see what sticks. To be fair, more things stick than not. Finberg is in top form with songs like “Reading and Writing About Partying,” a tune that sets the scene with radio chatter and a cracked-open beer before dropping commentary on navel-gazing nightlife denizens (“I toil the soil / The bottom of the can’s not loyal”) and providing a guitar romp powerful enough to spill a few brews. Yet, parts of this album are also unapologetically fun, like the danceable gelatinous keyboards of “Hippy Provider,” which, like the Ramones-esque “Evil is Easy,” puts the staccato drumming of Beren Ekine-Huett in the driver’s seat.

That’s not to say that the slower numbers are without merit, but they often come as dubious decisions. Loping “Techno Tuesday” seems out of place sandwiched between its raging neighbors and “Fidelity” ends the album on a depressing whimper (“I’m with somebody new / And they are even worse than you.”) The lazy acoustic guitar and maracas of “Dim Limelights” actually make more sense in context since, like the song that precedes it, it also comments on some of the stains of nightlife culture (“I like the start / Can’t stand the middle / And I hate the end.”) Susanna Wellbourne’s ‘60s pop throwback “Little Town Flirt,” while one of the most memorable songs here, pushes it fully out of “cohesive album” territory and into “collection of singles” land.

Like most garage vets, Finberg is not infallible. He can and does go wrong some times, particularly on this album’s longer songs. Established fans will appreciate a few new gems in the catalogue (I’ve returned repeatedly to “(They Found Me On the Back Of) The Galaxy”), but those unfamiliar with The Intelligence would do well starting with Deuteronomy, Fake Surfers or Males before circling back to this one.

By Valerie Paschall

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