red lights


Chicago indie-rock band
makes a monster

Bound Stems - Appreciation Night
(Flameshovel Records)
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Oct. 27, 2006
Bound Stems

Review by Tony Bonyata

One of the more recent buzz bands to emerge from the musical blogosphere is Bound Stems, a Chicago rock quintet that produces challenging, ramshackled indie pop. After first lighting up music blog sites and then garnering accolades from publications such as The New York Times, Alternative Press and Entertainment Weekly for their debut EP, the band has just unleashed their first full-length effort entitled Appreciation Night.

Although not altogether groundbreaking - as it follows in the still freshly crushed footsteps of indie bands such as The Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade - it still sure as hell sounds groundbreaking. With the short din of the title track that quickly segues into the first proper song on the album, "Andover," which is filled with stabbing guitars, time-altering rhythms and vocals that nervously tremble from pent-up anxiety, it's evident that these guys are out to create a monster of their own.

And what a monster it is. Fifteen mismatched songs of spastic, twitching pop all skillfully sewn together to create a beautiful, and quite often volatile, living thing. Opening with a hushed guitar on "Wake Up, Ma and Pa Are Gone," the track quickly goes from a stroll to skip to sprint, before losing all inhibitions for the cacophonic, if not somehow majestic, conclusion. While the snappy "Western Biographic" at first sounds erratic and disjointed, the addictive nature of the song shines through both the odd, yet irresistible melody and reckless abandon of the combating musicians, and the near epic "Excellent News, Colonel," with its metamorphosis from a melancholic bassline and white-noise guitar interference to rich harmonies and handclapping rhythms, manages to cram a multitude of seemingly unrelated numbers into a mere four-and-a-half minutes of head-scratching bliss.

Bounds Stems' Appreciation Night is definitely a thought-provoking, enticing album that may not knock you off your feet at first kiss, but stick with it and by the third date it'll be all over you.

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