One of my earliest memories of a home-run band comparison was Parasol Mail Order’s catalog description of Paik’s 1998 debut album Hugo Strange as a cross between Polvo and My Bloody Valentine. Those bands were titans of my late ’90s listening habits—not that I’ve abandoned those predilections—and I watered at the mouth at the promise of a new group combining Polvo’s tunings and My Bloody Valentine’s textures. When I heard Hugo Strange, I immediately understood where the comparison came from, but also grasped that there was more to Paik’s woozy instrumentals than a genetic splicing of those two aesthetics. (This point was hammered home by Paik’s superbly sprawling 2002 LP The Orson Fader and its tidier 2006 counterpart Monster of the Absolute, both highly recommended.) If only all such tantalizing comparisons could bear such fertile fruit.
Perhaps it’s déjà vu, but more than a decade later, Me You Us Them signals the same touchstones. The specters of Polvo and My Bloody Valentine cast spells on their 2010 debut LP Post-Data. You could hear opening track “Any Time,” check the properly formatted citations of Polvo’s queasy riff-bending and My Bloody Valentine’s gossamer shine on the lead guitar, and chalk it up to a perfect hybrid. But that song’s clear vocal melodies, which culminate in an earworm of a falsetto chorus hook, break the equation. Much like Paik, the merger of My Bloody Valentine and Polvo is only a starting point for Me You Us Them.
Post-Data offers plenty of other head-turning points of comparison. “Re-Entry” starts out by pairing jet engine swooshes with “ba-ba-ba” vocal hooks, but its half-shouted chorus recalls Pinback’s more energetic moments. The chorus of “Pretty Nettles” could have slipped onto Self’s Subliminal Plastic Motives. The wistful shoegaze of “Wish You Luck” hits the sweet spot of late ’90s groups like All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavors, while the loping arcs of “Drugs” mine similar terrain as contemporary acts like The Depreciation Guild. “Big Time” and “iQuit” step through the haze for urgent indie rock, complete with tricky guitar breaks. The group’s self-titled song layers guitar and keyboards over a nearly spoken-word delivery reminiscent of DC’s great Candy Machine. “As of Now” hits the cool stride of Sonic Youth. In case it’s not obvious, all of these comparisons are flattering, recalling broad swaths of my record collection.
Post-Data closes with its standout track, “Loving like Lawyers” (which they recently performed as a seven-piece, accompanied by fellow New Yorkers Appomattox). Starting out with pounding drums, then adding tremolo-heavy guitar, longing vocals, and a slippery bass line, “Lawyers” offers no obvious points of comparison, just a surplus of confident songwriting. The song head-fakes a fadeout at 2:48 before launching into a soaring, texture-laden outro. “Loving like Lawyers” acts as both a summary of what preceded it and glimpse into Me You Us Them’s possible future. (I underscore possible, since “Research,” their scream-laced contribution to a 2011 split single with Bloody Knives, is a wonderfully unexpected left-turn from the majority of Post-Data). Returning to the Paik parallel, if Post-Data is Me You Us Them’s Hugo Strange, I cannot wait for their Orson Fader, when those initial touchstones have completely vanished, leaving only own signatures behind.
Me You Us Them’s Post-Data hasn’t strayed far from my listening pile, especially in the car, since I first heard it a few months ago. That’s high praise—I will never underrate an indie rock record with intriguing riffs and compelling hooks, since those are increasingly few and far between. Perhaps that’s why Post-Data recalls so many ’90s groups; that was when I spent plenty of time with each album because my financials (and the lack of file-sharing) dictated it. Now it’s all by choice, and I’d simply prefer to hear Post-Data again. Allow me to take a mulligan and slip Post-Data onto my top albums of 2010 list.