Fantastic Explanations is neither as full nor as glam as the debut Cheap Time record, and though it comes off somewhat like a Henry Clay People performance comes off on stage—one could imagine these songs played loud, live, with a drunken, epic conclusion, wearing all the aspirations of a bona fide '70s rock show—it sounds a bit sleepy on record, as though it were aesthetically aiming for the “punk” label but settled for plain ol' rock and roll. Not that there's anything wrong with plain ol' rock and roll. Jeffrey Novak's slow and nasal Howard Devoto slur is easy and, though an acquired taste, a fresh bit of air when so many vocalists in the indie world are affected to the nth degree.
Musically, there aren't gobs and gobs of adventure showing through, and Fantastic Explanations could really be any standard rock album from the mid-'70s, or even the mid-'90s. Opener “When Tomorrow Comes” is wildly catchy, but “Everyone Knows” is a bit too blatant of a foot-tapper and nothing more, and Novak really seems to lose it on “Down the Tube,” with a confident “been there, done that” wail about him. Quite impressive for a bandleader only in his mid-20s, in hindsight. And though the record is unlikely to become anyone's favorite, particularly given the band's likely comparison points and peers, it is, if nothing else, promise of solid records to come, and excellent live potential. [In The Red]
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