Parts & Labor - Constant Future Album Review
Parts & Labor are a Brooklyn-based band with links to that borough's arty noise-rock scene. If the preceding sentence has generated any preconceptions about Constant Future, you should probably scrap them. It's not a daring album, or an experimental album, or an especially cacophonous, ear-drum-berating album. Instead, it's a rather inconsequential but undeniably fun alt.rock record; less Black Dice, more We Are Scientists.
It's a record which succeeds in spite of, and yet also because of, its repetitive nature. The band repeat the same tricks and ideas again and again, compulsively following their favourite formula. Tracks build slowly, driven on by Joe Wong's metronomic drumming; Dan Friel and B.J. Warshaw chant some obtuse lyrics with increasing fervour; Friel plays simple, euphoric keyboard riffs; eventually, we reach a crunching crescendo. Then the track abruptly stops, and the band start again from scratch. It's like watching a particularly obsessive toddler building a tower of garish toy bricks, then knocking it down, then building exactly the same tower, again and again. Except that the formula happens to work (I guess it's a particularly cool tower, if we're still pushing that metaphor): the album is viscerally exciting in an entirely straightforward way. Meek is the chief reason for this: he hits hard and fast, pushing things forward with a thrilling propulsiveness. It's a struggle not to start air-drumming every thirty seconds; this is not a record you should listen to on public transport. The vocal formula also works, and works better than it should: neither Friel nor Warshaw have an especially charismatic voice, but by combining forces and relying on repeating lyrical phrases rather than soaring vocals in order to get the listener's attention, they're able to turn this weakness into a strength. They sound hypnotic rather than dull. The album's best moment,'Rest', is a fine example of both of these strengths: Meek's drumming channels krautrockers Neu! whilst the vocalists deliver weirdly memorable surrealities with, alternatively, a furious intensity and a slightly creepy cool and precision.
The group seems to be reaching for the anthemic; they seem to be driven by the idea that if they can just get the formula exactly right, write a lyric universal enough or a keyboard hook euphoric enough, they can produce a song that indie kids worldwide will be humming. This impression is reinforced by the simplicity and directness of their approach, and by their penchant for dramatic crescendoes and catchy lyrics. Unfortunately, I suspect it isn't going to happen; they always seem to fall a little short, never quite hitting upon the perfect hook or melody. They're one creatively gifted songwriter short of the universal appeal their music strives for. But let's not be too hard on them: Constant Future is, despite its imperfections, an enjoyable album which is worth forty minutes of your time.