Friday, February 19, 2010

review: Worker Bee Tangler

Worker Bee
Side With Us Records, 2009

Worker Bee: "Nesting"
Worker Bee: "No Dreams"

Review by Andrew Jones

I must admit that I wasn't crazy about Tangler at first, but the chorus of the first song, "Come Back," got stuck in my head after a few listens. Seriously, it got really stuck in there, to the point where I just had to listen to the song again. About the second or third re-listen through, I realized that I liked "Come Back" so much because its chorus reminded me of the one in another song called "Come Back," this one by the Misfits. Yeah, kinda weird.

Aside from the fact that the phrase, "come back" is held out during the choruses in both songs, the two tunes have no relation. Also, Worker Bee and the Misfits--in so many ways--have nothing in common. Nevertheless, that chorus pulled me in, got me to listen to Tangler again, and I liked what I heard.

I guess it'd be most accurate to call what Worker Bee is doing post-rock, but they're definitely forging their own way. When I finished listening to the album a few times, I kept thinking about Slint and the Walkmen. So for those keeping score at home, in structure and terms of sonic range, I think these might be fair comparisons.

Returning to the opener of Tangler, "Come Back" struts along on a nice back beat and super catchy guitar riff that is partly pleasant but also a little haunting--suited to the longing in the lyrics. The moody atmosphere of this track sets the stage for the rest of the album, which stays sort of murky and soft at the edges throughout.

One of the stand out tracks on the record, "Nesting," chugs along on a clock tick beat and sinister bass line that sneak along before coming to satisfying crashes over echoing guitar lines. The players create a nice sense of anticipation towards the end of the song as they slow things down, trading measures back and forth between drums and guitars. They even toss in some bells towards the track's close, creating a nice texture, before slamming the music to a halt.

"Lip Service" and "No Dreams" both ride along on dreamy, almost math-y guitar riffs that shine over staccato drum beats. Both of these tracks remind me a bit of Radiohead. The guitars on "No Dreams" are particularly beautiful, but the band interrupts these lilting lines with hard edged sonic smashes before settling into a soothing riff that carries the song to its close.

The vocals on the album are interesting. Singer Evan Jewett has a distinctive and deep voice that is certainly unique, though not particularly versatile. However, the songs are suited sonically and in mood with his vocals. Moreover, throughout the album, he succeeds in making up for this lack of range with how emotive he manages to be (listen: "Cold Rats").

Throughout the album there are hints of great promise and a lot of originality from this San Jose quartet.
Worker Bee has really put together a solid and intriguing effort.

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