Miniboone

Bad Sports

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Miniboone are clever, clever like that guy you knew in college who was so stingingly bright that it would get on your nerves after a while, and though that didn't stop you from hanging out with him, it tended to encourage you to go home early rather than staying at the bar until last call. On their second full-length album, 2015's Bad Sports, Miniboone -- so smart they named themselves after a celebrated experiment in particle physics -- deliver a master class in new new wave songcraft and indie pop smarts, cramming the album full to the brim with sharp but effective melodic hooks, tough and artful guitar figures, elastic keyboard lines, precise stop-and-start rhythms, and arch but beautifully rendered harmonies. Fold in the purposefully affected vocals on "A Message to You, Eddie" and "Erasure," and song titles like "I Know You Would Do Anything for Love But What Would You Do for Me" and "I Don't Want to Write an Email," and there's practically no end to the way Miniboone have chosen to show us that they're the life of MENSA's college radio party. Along with all those smarts, Miniboone have craft to spare, sounding remarkably tight and forceful on Bad Sports, particularly when they hit the sharp curves in their melodies; their lyrics are not just clever but sometimes witty, and if you want to put someone down for trying to live in the past, "You want to listen to 'Paint It Black,' you want cigarettes at 35 cents a pack" is a good way to do it. But Miniboone's Achilles' Heel is that too much of the time, they sound less like they're trying to impress their listeners and more like they're impressed with themselves. They have reason to be proud of Bad Sports, but if they could feign being self-effacing every once in a while, spending time with them might be easier, not to mention more fun.

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