The finest albums tend to resist comparison, and The Scapegoat Factory is one of those albums. It is insanely catchy power pop that would be an unthinkable album without the Beach Boys, the Who, and other late-'60s pop, early-'70s pop/rock, the punk movement, and new wave. But it is none of those things, exactly: the album is such an internal and personal statement that it stands alone as a piece of music. There is something to be said for pain leading to great art, and The Scapegoat Factory, if nothing else, is a tremendous piece of art. Like Brian Wilson, Adam Marsland creates some of the finest pop moments out of the most fragile and insecure of emotions. Most of the album is completely self-deprecating and sincerely tormented. If anything, the magnified lyrics may be too self-conscious, and the album can seem somewhat bleak. Personal torment is a thread throughout the CD; musically, the album explodes with high harmonies and pop hooks. Just when it seems as if soaring pop/rock hooks almost had to be exhausted, The Scapegoat Factory surprises with a whole album full of brilliant melodies. Although they are recognizably pop, none of the songs fall back on familiar melodies, vocal or instrumental. The guitars ring some of the time, but Cockeyed Ghost seem just as happy to throw in a funk lick or to use piano as the main instrument. "I Hate Rock & Roll" is full of vitriol and would seem a contradiction considering the medium of the message, but really it is not -- musically, the song is much too idiosyncratic, and lyrically it is too cutting and sharp to be aiming at any sort of commercial airplay. "I Wish I Was a Girl" is not exactly delicate, but it is heartbreaking, made all the more so by the impossibly high chorus and bridge. The band dips into the punk-pop well ("Big Big Yeah," and "Crap"), but unlike many punk practitioners, Cockeyed Ghost is much more biting, and much of that bite comes at the expense of the musical community. The band is not all bark: it can also be strangely affecting, as on "Falling Down the Hill," and "Fates Cry Foul," with its beautiful trumpet touches. Throughout the album, Marsland sounds alternately angry, unsure, and on the brink of shattering; however, The Scapegoat Factory does not spiral into a mess -- that is the very brilliance of the album. By the time "Then I'll Be Happy" hits the listener's ears, Marsland has picked himself up and dusted himself off, and at least accepted the possibility of happiness. This is difficult but ultimately transcendent and special music: the sound of a man making something beautiful out of his misery.
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AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart