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Abe Vigoda – Skeleton (Post Present Medium)

Easily the most striking thing about the new Abe Vigoda album is its production, which is downright poppy relative to tour-mates No Age. Spindly guitars with bizarre effects take up odd angles against each other and tumble from the speakers like Omar Rodriguez-Lopez’s used to do when he played in a rock band. Vocals are occasionally intelligible in the mix, performed with a discernible charisma, sometimes chanted, with a dedication to pitch and harmony that recall Eric Gaffney. They’ve also clearly taken a textural shade from another Pride of Baltimore, Animal Collective, minus their obvious influence of that fucking catbird that sits outside my Parkton window every morning and insists upon squaking until I wake.

A bass hovers at odd intervals, directing tempo and time signature changes. Drums gallop and change velocity at unexpected intervals, the complexity of their phrasing often giving the appearance of polyrhythms that ought to send Vampire Weekend back to the shade of a Nantucket elm where they belong, so they can listen to Jimmy Buffet and wonder what would have happened the night before if only that prep school girl hadn’t been distracted by her friends from out of town on the way home from the Sigma Chi semi-formal.

In short, Skeleton is one of a select few releases this year by a band who find a happy middle ground between knowing how to play their instruments and perfoming songs that don’t demand to be played at medium-low volume in your bedroom with the blinds drawn and the door shut tight. Best comparison is a math rock-y version of the Minutemen, or perhaps a more minute version of Polvo. The production, the lyrical attention, the tendency to package their music in segments known as songs make Abe a bit more approachable than their stinky L.A. peers.

On-stage at Floristree July 9, the day after their CD hit stores, they were chatty with the audience, speaking with the excited-without-being-high-strung eloquence of the L.A. skate-punks of yore. The guitars exhibited dimensions that extended past the in-your-faceness of No Age (the headliner). And while both bands were birthed in the same concrete swamp that is L.A., they don’t have much in common besides the sense that they’re both reaching for the same thing.

In reaching up off the “Dead City/Waste Wilderness” pavements, both bands sound like elements of the city street that have been vaulted into the ionosphere to collide with whatever strange and alien particles exist up there. Abe Vigoda hasn’t been heard by very many people yet, but the tour and simultaneous album release should bolster their status to the point that by the end, we may be wondering who the real headliner is.

Let’s face it, Nouns is a slightly above average loud rock CD released in a time when most of what is currently released as indie would have passed for adult alternative ten or fifteen years ago, and that — not the content of the music — is why it garners such critical priase. No Age played a killer show, don’t get me wrong, but overall Abe Vigoda has a far stronger CD. Even if LPs aren’t exactly the height of music fashion these days, you have to be able to aptly pull off a studio recording if you plan to extend your audience beyond the set of people who can see you perform live. It may be that the indie press jumped too soon for the ageless wonders; the ancient, droopy, Abe Vigoda may just be the long-runner when people consider the lo-fi resurgence of 2008.

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