Don't let the title fool you -- there's nothing quixotic about the Hurricane Lamps' third album. The leap from eight- to 16-track technology for Tilting at Windmills might give this material a slightly more expansive feel than previous efforts, but the band's rough-edged fusion of tunefulness and discord remains staunchly lo-fi. And there isn't anything lofty or over-idealistic about Eric Tischler's lyrics either -- he keeps his feet firmly on the ground to deliver his trademark tales of confessional kitchen-sink realism. While these songs are built on the familiar driving bass and jagged guitar of sparring partners Tischler and Greg Bennett, new drummer Jason Merriman brings a heavyweight clout that beefs up the foundations. In places, the band relies on Bennett's resonant bass to provide the central melodic line, à la Peter Hook ("Don't Turn Around"); elsewhere, the Lamps' unpolished, trebly noise pop channels the spikier Spirit of '76 ("Reckless"). Things get especially interesting when an extra sonic dimension is added to the band's charging arrangements. This can be as simple as the spooky glockenspiel and Moog that lurk at the end of "Parade" or the catchy singsong harmonies that flesh out Tischler's plaintive vocals on "You Got Your Wish." On "Suffocate," the variations in form are more emphatic, as periodic eruptions of searing guitar and stuttering, accelerating drum bursts ratchet up the intensity. The proceedings take a slightly experimental turn on "Stranded," a mongrel track that grafts together two seemingly incongruous elements: a thick, fuzzy noise layer that My Bloody Valentine would be proud of (imagine your vacuum cleaner processed with effects and played backwards) and melodic pedal-steel guitar. The results are unusual, but it works nevertheless. Tilting at Windmills finds the Hurricane Lamps broadening their sonic horizons and further cementing their own distinctive sound.
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