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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Let's Active - Cypress

Name: Let's Active
Album: Cypress
Year: 1984
Style: Power / Jangle Pop
Similar Bands: Robyn Hitchcock, REM, Game Theory, Loud Family, The Three O'Clock, Lightning Seeds, Bolshoi, Mary Timony, Pretenders, Joe Jack Talcum
"One-Word" Review: Jangle Gazing
Based Out Of: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Label: I.R.S.
Cypress - Tape, Cover, Liner Notes

Cypress (1984)
  1. Easy Does 3:21
  2. Waters Part 4:55
  3. Lowdown 3:37
  4. Gravel Truck 1:05
  5. Crows on a Phone Line 3:49
  6. Ring True 3:35/
  7. Blue Line 2:58
  8. Flags for Everything 2:49
  9. Prey 3:29
  10. Co-Star 3:00
  11. Ornamental 3:22
  12. Counting Down 4:01
Album Rating (1-10): 7.0

Members & Other Bands:Don Dixon - Producer (Arrogance)
Mitch Easter - Guitar, Vox, Producer, Artwork (The Sneakers, Shalini)
Carl Grasso - Art Direction
Faye Hunter - Bass
Ted Jensen - Mastering
Laura Levine - Photography
Sara Romweber - Drums (Dexter Romweber Duo)

Unknown-ness: I’ve never heard of this band. But I like the name a lot. Let’s Active it feels very energetic, and I hope that translates to the music. I see it was made in 1984, which makes me wonder, as this would be a great name for a new wave / punk band from 1979. The cover art makes me think of mid 80’s alternative / college radio bands that do tend to go on and on in a meandering way that usually does not keep my attention, and steps too close to the Americana, folk-country line.

Album Review: So as I read a bit about them, It appears that this will be Jangle pop, as the singer, Mitch Easter had a huge hand in producing the Athens, GA sound, on albums from REM, The Connells, and Velvet Crush.

“Easy Does” mixes the genres of shoe gazing with jangle pop right away with a chorus of female vocals and nasally make vocals. The way the vocals are layered over the guitars reminds me a lot of Robyn Hitchcock. There is a pure fun and somewhat mystical energy about this music.“Waters Part” right away reminds me of Robyn Hitchcock again with the harmonies and style of vocals. This song is a little harder than the first jangley song. And it is longer, and tends to melodically wander around more than what my attention can withstand, which is my biggest critique with this style of REM- college radio type music.“Lowdown” is female fronted in a very Pretenders/Mary Timony style, and has a bass section that reminds me of REM’s “The One I Love.” The chorus is very poppy in comparison to the solemn verse. “Gravel Truck” is a tubular bells, echoing & mystical instrumental full of cross fades and a very earthy feel“Crows on a Phone Line” is a dark and dragging, shoe gazing song that continues to progress, but never gets anywhere. It reminds me of the previous reviewed album by The Bolshoi. To my ears, the composition is erratic, random and even chaotic, and does not make pop sense.“Ring True” is another deep, grey female fronted song like “lowdown” but musically, there is a much more upbeat melody.

“Blue Line” continues with the same mystical, trapped in a glass box atmosphere the album has this far conveyed. The drums and catchy melody would seem to demand pop, but the guitars and bass water the sound down, and steer the ship in the opposite direction. The chorus, if produced with more bounce and simplicity could sound right at home on a B-52’s album.“Flags for Everything” teeters on a country borderline. It possesses female vocals that are a little brighter, but not being a fan of country music, I do not find this interesting, and it just fades into background music.“Prey” is Celtic when it first begins with guitars only. Then drums and vocals kick in and the song feels like if the Alarm was fronted by Joe Jack Talcum of the Dead Milkmen. Harmonica also adds its Americana touch, making this a song with international appeal.“Co-Star” starts off very fun and bouncy for the verse, but when it reaches the chorus, it falls victim to a meandering loop.“Ornamental” features a neat mix of Hitchcockian vocals and an oh-Oh-OH vocal background fill, both by Easter. The song is minstrally, like most of Hitchcock’s storytelling songs. The meandering is kept to a minimum, and features a much more straightforward and tight composition.“Counting Down” fades up with bass primarily. And the song quickly transitions into a light jangley song. It is a fun way to end the album, and much brighter than the rest of the album projects. Did I mention this album sounds a bit like Robyn Hitchcock? I probably did.

Stand Out Tracks: Easy Does

Mitch Easter.com
Trouser Press
Sputnik Music
blog review
Big Plans Blog

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