For a band whose output has been labeled "smart rock" by critics in the past, T*Shirt comes across as pretty ordinary on this posthumous collection, which begins at the end of the band's career in 1997 and then backtracks to EP and single-sides from 1996 and 1995. That's not to say it's bad, by any means: "Shrine," "Broke," and "Pascal" have plenty to recommend them, and they give up additional subtle pleasures with repeated listenings; the dour bassline and bleepy synthesizer that open "Twilight of the Univac" are endearingly reminiscent of vintage Pere Ubu. But for all of its charms, T*Shirt's music sounds like that of a band that is hoping to be used as an illustration in the next edition of the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians under the "College Rock" entry. There's a sense of studied amateurism to the band's sound -- guitars playing just a bit off the beat, singers swiping half-heartedly at the melody notes -- that comes across as disingenuous, as if they don't think they'll be taken more seriously if they seem to be less than fully in control of their instruments. At their best, on "Good Daughter," and the beautifully sung "In the Red Light District of Your Heart," it sounds like they've momentarily forgotten to sound "college" and are simply caught up in the joy of playing great songs. It's too bad that didn't happen more often.
Share this page