Throw Me The Statue Creaturesque

[Secretly Canadian; 2009]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: synth pop, indie rock
Others: Built To Spill, Grandaddy, Ra Ra Riot

Throw Me The Statue’s first full-length, Moonbeams was a low-budget affair, relying heavily on acoustic guitars, tinny synthesizers, and drum machines. It sounded cheap, like an ELO album made in someone's rec room, but this was precisely its charm. Without that ramshackle element, the album would have just been another collection of mid-tempo indie rock. Then came Throw Me The Statue's stopgap EP, Purpleface, a marked departure from Moonbeams. Gone was the sense of fun and frugality; these song were stillborn in the studio. It was a dispiriting listening experience, almost entirely lacking in the qualities that I originally found so enjoyable.

My expectations for Throw Me The Statue’s follow-up record shrank after Purpleface, but any fear that Moonbeams was a fluke is largely erased by Creaturesque. The album finds the band returning to a more energetic tone, but this time they've transitioned from a cheap, carefree sense of fun to a deliberately playful and thoughtfully layered one. It's a limber pop record, benefitting from its (presumably) larger recording budget yet still retaining the same casual lightness that made Moonbeams such a pleasure to listen to.

“Hi-Fi Goon,” one of the album’s best (and least understated songs), captures the band mid-transition. The classic rock undertones of the song aren’t fully integrated into their sound yet, but it shows them reaching further and appropriating fresher styles into their repertoire. Scott Reitherman, the founding member of the band, shows growth too, both authoritatively and vocally. While his voice is occasionally softer than on past recordings -- “Cannibal Rays,” in particular, is a delicate confection, buoyed by Reitherman’s refined croon -- he's also sounding much more confident, like an old school frontman.

Meanwhile, Phil Ek’s production serves the songs well: from the peppy opening beat of “Waving At The Shore” to the jangly gallop of “Tag,” Creaturesque is sonically cohesive while still managing to highlight the songwriting. The studio gloss does occasionally become overbearing, as on the record's last two songs, but the production is mostly appropriate for the band's aims.

Still, Creaturesque suffers from an overabundance of whimsy, from a surfeit of wispy indie-ness, and there are isolated moments when other more established groups (Built To Spill, Death Cab For Cutie) come to mind. While the album shows the band refining their sound, it also carries the threat that their future might be too refined, too polished and neat. Earlier this year, Purpleface proved that Throw Me The Statue is capable of making leaden, lifeless pop music. As long as they bear in mind that overproduced gloss can't cover up a lack of musical depth, that pop music lives and dies on the strength of the songwriting, perhaps they’ll be able to avoid their shortcomings and accentuate the strengths of Creaturesque for future recordings.

1. Waving At The Shore
2. Pistols
3. Tag
4. Ancestors
5. Noises
6. Snowshoes
7. Dizzy From The Fall
8. Cannibal Rays
9. Hi-Fi Goon
10. Baby, You're Bored
11. Shade For A Shadow
12. The Outer Folds

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