History's First Know-It-All is an eclectic collection of songs that run the sonic gamut, from minimal (Godspeed You Black Emperor!) to Syd Barrett. The opening, "Oahu Sugar Strike," recalls Pink Floyd's "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast"; it's a winding road of progressive rock with household effects in its background. The song possesses a great flow to it, making the five minutes elapse quickly. The Caribbean drift in and out of a myriad of styles, including the Elliott Smith-styled dream pop during "Bulbs & Switches." Haunting harmonies make the song work brilliantly. "The Requirements" comes off as too melancholic; the piano doesn't add enough oomph to the number, but fans of the Elephant Six Orchestra will enjoy it. If there's any drawback to these songs, it's the fact some are too under-developed. "Officer Garvey" contains all the quirky pop stylings of the New Pornographers, but there aren't enough hooks to carry the Beach Boys' sweetness. The same conclusion could be drawn with "Fresh Out Of Travel Agent School," despite the nicely defined string section and percussion. The title track is perhaps the most radio-friendly track among the dozen. And even then it's a stretch, ebbing back and forth from a loose jazz groove to an ambient Eno segment to a jangle guitar finale. "It's Unlikely To Settle The Difference" separates itself from the other tunes despite the tedious repetition of its title. Backing harmonies, courtesy of Maureen Kentoff, add much-needed texture. From there it reverses direction, moving into a spacious instrumental guitar solo that David Gilmour would enjoy. "Trick Photography" is mainstream pop fodder that seems unfulfilled. "Perish The Thought" would be best left off the album, coming off like a demo or B-side for its terse two minutes.
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AllMusic Review by Jason MacNeil