The Intelligence

Everybody's Got It Easy But Me

(CD - In the Red Records #ITR 226CD)

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Los Angeles is usually synonymous with smoggy air, but in typically perverse fashion, Lars Finberg's move to the City of Angels resulted in the cleanest, most focused-sounding Intelligence album in some time. Everybody's Got It Easy But Me blows away much of the fuzz and fog that hovered over Males and to a lesser extent Fake Surfers and reconnects Finberg and crew with the strange and sprightly garage pop of their earlier work on "Hippy Provider," where the chorus mostly consists of Finberg shouting "Hey man, is that freedom rock? Turn it up!," and "I Like L.A.," which sounds like a slowed-down Wire song and features the bon mot "Can you make a real river out of your fake tears?" As usual, the band's riffs go off on unexpected angles that are matched by Finberg's quirky perspectives; when he sings "I get bummed out about Hades/And the '80s" on "Reading and Writing about Partying," it's hard not to crack a smile. His voice is one part goofy buffoon and two parts too cool for school, all the better for delivering deceptively simple song-stories like "They Found Me in the Back of the Galaxy." But whenever things seem a little too simple, Finberg and crew bust out something unexpected, like the acoustic guitars, trumpets, and Mellotrons of "Techno Tuesday," the Latin percussion on "Dim Limelights," or the drifting, album-closing ballad "Fidelity," which blossoms into a six-minute, full-band epic. Two of Everybody's Got It Easy But Me's best moments also come near the end: a terrific version of the Del Shannon classic "Little Town Flirt" featuring Shannon Shaw of Shannon and the Clams on lead vocals proves that the band's flair for covers is as strong as ever, while the dark and noisy "Sunny Backyard" makes "it's always summer in your backyard" sound like an insult and approaches the weirdness of the band's excellent Deuteronomy. While the Intelligence may not sound quite as inspired here as they did on that album, Everybody's Got It Easy But Me is still plenty of fun.

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