Never lacking in ambition, Parenthetical Girls followed their heady third album Entanglements with a series of five limited-edition EPs released over the course of 15 months, each one bearing a portrait of one of the band's members and hand-numbered in that member's blood. Once the series was complete, Zac Pennington and company trimmed down the results into Privilege (Abridged), which may not have quite the dramatic sweep of the entire collection of EPs, but does show just how much musical ground they covered on them. Leaving behind Entanglements' orchestra pit, the band bounces from sound to sound, touching on synth pop, glam rock, chamber pop, and show tunes along the way. They recall a less fearsome Xiu Xiu on "Careful Who You Dance With" and a more cerebral Suede on "The Pornographer"'s stomp, while the drum break on "A Note to Self" evokes Adam Ant and big bands at the same time. This musical diversity makes Privilege (Abridged) a little more accessible than Entanglements; likewise, while this album still has a library's worth of cleverly crafted bon mots, zingers, and turns of phrase, Pennington's wordplay isn't quite as densely packed as before, allowing listeners to catch up with lyrics like "This great, guiltless gilded class" or "under a sky of patent leather" before he's on to the next figure of speech. Despite Parenthetical Girls' hyper-stylization, more often than not these songs are genuine. Pennington is passionate in a way that has to be expressed in a slew of words, whether it's on the anti-love song "Curtains" or the class warfare of "Sympathy for Spastics." Even if the group's music isn't exactly catchy in a conventional verse-chorus-verse sense, Privilege (Abridged)'s mix of mercurial sounds and vivid storytelling is so compelling that it leaves listeners hanging on the words. For those unfamiliar with Parenthetical Girls, it could be the perfect introduction to their fascinating music.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
Track Listing - Disc 1