Tenement Halls Knitting Needles & Bicycle Bells

[Merge; 2005]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: rock, southern rock, saloon rock
Others: Arcade Fire, Rock*A*Teens, Bright Eyes

Tenement Halls is the project of post-Rock*A*Teens mastermind singer Chris Lopez. Destroyer (aka Dan Bejar) wrote a glowing-ass one sheet for this release, and despite not liking a lick of Destroyer's music, it somehow made me want to take this CD more seriously. Here's yet another hometown legend that's passed me by. A whole legacy that arrives at my doorstep stacked betwixt minimalists, avant-rockers, folkies, and punks.

It's a winsome, uplifting rock Lopez spills out the speakers, but I hate it and I'll tell you why:

-It's poppy and breezy to the point of being nauseating.
-It jaunts along in a very cloying way, winding up that wistful melancholy music box that's long since been exhausted.
-That shanty-piano rag-calliope progression style leaves me cold as ice (and longing for some Foreigner).
-The overwrought vocals
-The decently clever lyrics made sugary by old-timey over-emphasis.
-Destroyer likes them

I was kidding on that last one, but I guess I just can't stumble onto a supposed career legacy and pretend that I'm right on board. Especially when the songs annoy me as much as these do (culminating in the dippier than the title prepared me for cornball "Marry Me"). I can appreciate the old-fashioned hey-hey-hey, la-la-la sentiment to a point. But as assured as these tunes are, they will never carry any cherished torch of nostalgia except in the minds of fans and Lopez. Tenement Halls may be alright, but they're not The Pogues. They're not The Replacements. And they're certainly not Bob Dylan. And what's with this lyrical "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" allusion at the end of the last track? Just because Chris Lopez isn't as big as U2 doesn't mean they can get away with the same pretentiousness.

1. Silver From The Silt
2. Up & Over Thee Turnstiles
3. As Long A It Takes
4. Charlemagne
5. Now She Knows
6. Plenty Is Never Enough
7. Marry Me
8. My Wicked Wicked Ways
9. Starless Night
10. When The Swifts Com Home
11. Promise A Place