The Churchills

The Odds of Winning

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After a couple years away and a couple lineup changes, the Churchills made a triumphant return in 2005 with The Odds of Winning, a solid, soaring disc on the rock end of the power pop spectrum. New members Jed Higgerson (guitars) and Scott Haskitt (drums and percussion) are folded seamlessly into the sounds of longtime bandmembers and creative foci Bart Schoudel and Ron Haney. Schoudel and Haney are not quite the Lennon and McCartney of the indie pop underground, but they complement each other nicely and have written a solid batch of songs. Opener "Not So Goodbye" might be a lame pun of a title, but it's a solid rocker with a democratic arrangement where everyone shines. The lofty refrain of "Sometimes Your Best Isn't Good Enough" justifies its placement as lead single from the album, but it's second single "I'm a Sucker for a Girl in Uniform" that really steals the show: it's an undeniable modern rocker that culls its monster riff and handclaps from the "Louie Louie"-loving garage rockers of the '60s. Extra points for rhyming "police shield" with "Ashley Banfield." On the rest of the album, songwriters Schoudel and Haney frequently revisit the trope that relationships are contests, and the key is not winning every time but knowing when to let the other person win. Lyrically they waver on whether "control" is a good thing or not, which makes for some interesting dynamics for the close listener. The Churchills nicely acquit themselves on the production front as well, judiciously adding such touches as the percussive glints on "Do You Want Me to Go Away" and the glockenspiel on "Waiting for Someone to Save Us" while not over-producing. Only some dizzying speaker-panning on the bridge of "It Only Hurts When I Breathe" proves to be a bad production decision. The ballads on The Odds of Winning are not as thrilling as the rockers, but are still consistently intelligent and intense on this album, not a song or even a moment phoned in. Happy endings are too facile, the band concludes with this record; what's real are the experiences both sweet and sour, both win and loss, along the way. A nice thought, making for a solid record: encouraging odds, indeed.

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