The Pillows

Rock Stock & Too Smoking the Pillows

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For a band with such an extensive back catalog, the occasional best-of is a must -- and a pretty safe bet, too: the masochistic one-album-a-year schedule the Pillows have set for themselves results in a lot of filler, but all of it is eschewed on Rock Stock & Too Smoking the Pillows, which, despite its clumsy name, is the dream album the band never managed to lay down in the studio. The theory of the Pillows' sound is simple: take some Pixies riffs and a pinch of rockabilly, add a few doses of clean indie pop guitars and an endearingly nerdy vocalist, get some college alt-rock in the output folder. But the important thing is how to make this formula work, and Rock Stock is a collection of cases where the band scores. Most tunes follow the same inner pattern: a fast streamlined rhythm section that stays one notch below the punk tempo and a lot of guitar noodling on top; the noodling is occasionally diverse -- see the bombastic "Scarecrow" or the mellow "Ladybird Girl" -- and always catchy. The album could do with more variety -- would it really kill the Pillows to make a slower song worthy of a best-of collection? "1989," the sole new track here, shows they can do that when they want to, although on the whole, Rock Stock doesn't offer much besides the main course. Still, for the uninitiated, this is a great introduction to the Pillows, showcasing their strength in mixing sunny Weezer hooks into intelligent guitar textures -- as well as their tendency to overdo this approach now and then. For the converted, it's simple math: if there are enough songs on the LP that one doesn't own on studio albums, it's worth snatching up, but if not, there's little sense in getting it for a single song, even if it's a neat treat.

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