The Earlies The Enemy Chorus

[Secretly Canadian; 2007]

Styles: high-minded indie prog
Others: The Beta Band, Spiritualized, The Flaming Lips, El Guapo/Supersystem

Those preoccupied with window dressing don’t tend to possess a breadth of substance. Nowhere is this proven more regularly than within the scope of indie rock. As new technologies emerge and subsequently become more affordable to the average band, it could be argued that the opportunity to be a well-garnished shadow of an artist increases. At what point do the bows, ribbons, and other trinkets begin to detract from the gift itself? Although this question equates to asking “What do you like on your Ritz?” in that it’s subjective and depends on the person you query, it’s a thought many musicians will need to think about as ProTools develops its 234-track model.

Besides, the base of a song is much more important than its adornments. No matter how many layers of debris you apply, if the inside is rotten, it will eventually corrode the rest of the apparatus. The Earlies manage to both prove and, occasionally, disprove this notion. The mammoth collective luv-luv-luv their toys, and at times you’ll love-love-love to hear them play. At other times, you’ll wonder how the melodies and songwriting could be any more staid regardless of how many comets whiz by your ear.

One wonders if The Earlies construct their songs the way they do because they’re attempting to (over)compensate for remarkably average vocals or because they want to justify counting just about every mouth-breather on earth as a member. If the former is correct, then applause is in order, as the fluorescent ‘snap’ of a handful of tracks make you forget how dull the singing is (if you must know, the closest comparison is the nondescript manner of Fastball’s frontman).

“Burn the Liars” is a fantastic little tune in the vein of a fatter Irving track, surging to glory on the wheels of a chubby piano line and tubby dots of synth. And huzzah, when you strip away the bark you still find a fine piece of wood on the inside. But the momentum of this early ray of hope is dashed fairly quickly. Plodding numbers like the title track and “Foundation and Earth” attempt to disguise their rote basslines and tepid verses with facepaint and a wig, but it’s all too Tootsie for comfort; we all know there’s a hairy jungle lurking beneath all the Flaming Lips bluster and church-bell grandeur. The latter busts out of its funk with some interesting mid-song instrumental interplay, which is where The Earlies defy the theory posited above — I know the song itself is secondary, but the screeching synths and cacophonous swells leave me helpless and asking for more.

Same with the last cut, “Breaking Point.” Clipping squealing synths from The Chronic isn’t typical modus op. for a ‘rock’ band, but The Earlies roll it up just right, ascending to ridiculous heights. Best of all, there are no vocals or tiresome verse-chorus structures — which bring often bring The Enemy Chorus’ high-flyers back to earth — to sully a perfectly good exercise.

Sadly, though The Earlies break out of the indie cocoon quite successfully at times, they’re still not ready to grow wings and transcend the heap. Their moments of shine are too prone to washing out, their songwriting foundation too flimsy. Chalk this one up as a failed experiment, albeit one that ups enthusiasm for explorations to come.

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