One of the defining albums of the mid-'90s indie scene, the Apples in Stereo's full-length debut is one of those records that marks a sea change in musical attitudes, akin to Mudhoney's "Touch Me I'm Sick" or Pavement's early singles. Besides being the breakthrough release of the Elephant 6 collective, which alone is responsible for many of the better albums of the decade, Fun Trick Noisemaker is the album that defines the post-grunge indie pop shift from sullen negativity into a kind of cockeyed, giddy optimism, and is also among the handful of albums that turned Brian Wilson, Arthur Lee, and Burt Bacharach into cool names to drop at the record store. The album opens with a plundered bit of sonic ephemera from an old stereo-effects demonstration record that plunges directly into the manic throb of "Tidal Wave," where Hilarie Sidney's thudding drums sound like "I Want Candy" on speed and Robert Schneider's goofy mixed-metaphor lyrics and boyish vocals blend with sci-fi vintage synth whooshes and a killer fuzz-guitar riff out of the Fillmore West's heyday. From that breathless start, the album skips blithely from high point to high point, like the sugar-sweet bubblegum melody and "la la la" harmonies of "Glowworm" and the hyperspeed rush of the Buzzcocks-meet-the Banana Splits "Dots 1-2-3." Childlike songs like Sidney's lone vocal showcase, "Winter Must Be Cold," add a charmingly naïve sensibility to what could otherwise be a collection of ideas plundered from impossibly hip record collections. Several years' worth of albums covering the same territory might have dulled the album's freshness just a touch, and the group's technical competence would grow with each successive album, but Fun Trick Noisemaker is a minor masterpiece.
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AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason