Unreleased albums are usually whispered about as either misguided experiments that should stay in the vault or, more often, unheralded masterpieces lost to the vicissitudes of the heartless record industry. Recorded in 1997 but not released until 2001, the first and only album by the Big Bright Lights (a band name-checked by the Promise Ring on their album Very Emergency) is neither of these. Instead, this duo album by Jeff Garber and Derek Niedringhaus, both formerly of the definitive emo band, Castor, is fine late-'90s indie rock, neither so wonderful that folks should have stayed up all night wishing upon a star for its release nor the limp, pointless jamming so common to this kind of side project. Although Castor was at the forefront of the short-lived emo movement, Take Manhattan only occasionally fits those parameters, most notably on the doomy "Is This the End." Elements reminiscent of the Red House Painters (especially on the slowly building guitar instrumental "Nova"), the Foo Fighters, and American Analog Set are all over this album, and even the dirgelike minor key songs have memorable choruses or interesting sonic textures. The six-minute synth noodle "Digital Distortion" and the found sound and acoustic guitar experiment "Springfield Avenue" could have been trimmed, though, if not eliminated outright. Neither a classic nor a mistake, Take Manhattan is a low-key experiment that, for the most part, works.
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AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason