The Progress


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On their first full-length album, the Progress demonstrate both what's best and what's worst about post-punk indie rock. Luckily, the good stuff is what's most important: tunefulness, great guitar parts, open-hearted singing, and solid arrangements. These guys are better than almost any other band at creating guitar parts that don't draw attention to themselves, but reward close attention if you decide to listen hard. They also have a remarkable ability to create songs that are deeply satisfying melodically without being conventionally hooky. There aren't any irresistible singalong choruses or fist-in-the-air catch phrases here, but every song manages to get an equally firm grip on both your brain and your heart: check, for example, the elegant arrangement underlying "Paper and Ink" and the completely visceral feeling of euphoria that powers its opening bars. Also notice the genuine sonic weirdness on which the album's title track is built, and the way the band manages to wrestle that weirdness into a compelling pop statement. Where the Progress exemplify the worst of post-punk indie rock is in their lyrics, which tend strongly toward the nonsensical -- and not the artfully nonsensical, either, but rather the just plain incoherent. Point at the lyric sheet randomly and you'll hit twaddle like the following almost every time: "I'm drawing a line in the sand and taking these hands and giving the same mistakes," "Moving over movies untrue, you'll move again soon," "All the melody and all the sounds (you know the words) will owe a round to this one." Not every song on the program sounds like it was created by a Random Emo Phrase Generator, but too many of them do. However, those guitars go quite a way toward ensuring that Merit will be great listening regardless.

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