Two Koreas

Science Island

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The Two Koreas is a band featuring not one, not two, but three professional rock critics in its lineup, and on their third album, 2011's Science Island, they sound just as smart and just as arch as you'd expect from a band of serious rock geeks. On the other hand, if you're expecting their cerebral side would get in the way of the band's physical attack, the good news is you'd be wrong; Science Island is the work of a band that isn't afraid to hit hard, and these 11 songs conjure up a buzzy web of sound that's physical and intellectual at once, generating chaos while holding all the pieces together with admirable precision. Guitarist Kieran Grant dominates this music, and while he's not doing anything remarkably fancy, he's a master at knowing when to drop some harsh chords or chrome-shiny riffs into the mix, while drummer David Gee and bassist Ian Worang hold down the backbeat with a ferocity and accuracy that strengthen both sides of the formula, and Jason Anderson's keyboards add subtle textures beneath the racket. Lead singer Stuart Berman is plenty wordy, but even though he makes it obvious he's a smart guy, he's also witty, full of snark, and has his feet firmly on the ground, like a bartender who reads Thomas Frank in between pouring shots. Producer Jon Drew gives Science Island a sound that's big and just clean enough to let the rough edges stay visible, which is important for a band that puts as much stock in 'texture and tone as these folks. And Science Island's songs work brilliantly either individually or as a whole; in a time when so many folks insist digital downloads have killed off the concept of the album, the Two Koreas have put together a set of tunes that sound even stronger when heard in one sitting, and though that's a notion that might occur to a handful of rock critics, it's takes real rock & roll musicians to make it actually work, and this album confirms these guys are even better at making music than they are at writing about it.

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