Small Factory

Industrial Evolution

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A collection of singles and compilation tracks from 1991-1994, most of which haven't appeared elsewhere, Industrial Evolution is a fine introduction to the band, offering a narrative of their progression. The songs employ a light touch, with warm, open-hearted melodies and a fragile emotionalism that epitomizes a vein of college rock at the time. The first singles draw heavily from the catchy, ringing acoustic-guitar approach of late-'80s British bands like the Wedding Present and the Smiths, mostly focusing on the staples: love and girls. Despite their self-consciously artless speak/sing, their early work treads dangerously close to twee, what with the sunny melodies, backing "ahhs," and female fixation. But something extraordinary happens midway through the album, and like a teenage growth spurt, they achieve an almost-shocking maturity, beginning with the track "Hey Lucille," which showcases remarkable assurance on a slow-build rave, riding a faintly country sound and growing in volume and intensity. It's followed by the album's true gem, a sturdy little lethargic love song, "If You Hurt Me," where after making vague threats in the refrain and running the narrative through the verse, the male/female duet croons, "If you break my heart/I'll smash up your car," as the song roars to a close, the acoustic guitars growing fuzzy and menacing. Indeed, a much firmer grasp of dynamics and more adventurous verse-chorus-verse constructions elevate the rest of the album far above that of the first half, indicating their growing skills. While still on an early-'80s anglophile tip, the songs can now stand on their own and have lost their feel of slavish genuflection. "Lose Your Way" is an example of this transformation, employing a round in singing a soaring love song as good anything released that year.

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