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The Haul 2010: Bell Gardens' Hangups Need Company

Bell Gardens – Hangups Need Company CD – Failed Better, 2010 (Broadway Avenue Reckless Records, 7/15)

Bell Gardens' Hangups Need Company EP

Reckless Records informed me of the existence of Bell Gardens by including the vinyl pressing of Hangups Need Company in their Stars of the Lid divider. Unbeknownst to me, Brian McBride—one half of Stars of the Lid—collaborated with Kenneth James Gibson from Furry Things and {a}ppendics.shuffle on this disc of '60s-style pop. McBride’s track record from Stars of the Lid and his two solo album, 2005's When the Detail Lost Its Freedom and 2010's The Effective Disconnect, is exemplary, but my hunger for Beach Boys-informed pop is limited, so consider this purchase a calculated risk.

The good news is that Bell Gardens pull off this sound more convincingly than the vast majority of their peers. It’s not a mere application of Beach Boys vocal harmonies to modern sonics and structures—“Through the Rain” could slide into an oldies playlist and no one would think twice. The bad news is that Gibson’s lyrics are often nauseating treacle. (Editor's note, courtesy of a commentator: “End of the World” is actually a cover of Skeeter Davis's 1963 song, so my dismissal of that song's on-the-nose lyrical sentiment apparently goes against a #2 Billboard hit. One that Susan Boyle covered last year. Egg on my face alert. “Breeze [Letters by the Bed]” and its “I see the sunrise in your face / I want to stay here in this place” couplet. still bug me, though.)

My favorite moments on Hangups come when things slow down enough for McBride’s compositional touches to shine through, specifically on “No Story” and “Labour at the Landmark.” They don’t sound like SOTL, mind you, but their pleasant merger of modern dream pop and vintage 60s pop lets the lyrics take a much-needed backseat.

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On Nov 3, 11:25 AM notyou said,