The Bats

Free All the Monsters

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It’s hard to decide which is more impressive, that at the time of their 2011 album, Free All the Monsters, the Bats had been been a band for nearly 30 years (with the same four members!) or that they sound almost exactly the same as they did on their first recordings. Yes, the record is much cleaner, but all the hallmarks of the Bats' sound are there: the close-knit guitar interplay between Robert Scott and Kaye Woodward, the way the duo's vocals fit together like puzzle pieces, Paul Kean’s melodic basslines, and the tightly propulsive drumming of Malcolm Grant. It’s a warm and inviting sound that feels as fresh as it did when they first came up with it in the early '80s. The recording is a little slicker than usual this time out, but the extra layer of atmosphere only adds to the hazy power of the songs and gives Robert Scott’s yearning vocals a softer bed to lie upon. As with most Bats albums, there aren’t many tracks that stand out. Or maybe they all stand out. Either way, the album sticks together like a group of preschoolers holding hands while crossing a street on a field trip. The track list is a perfect blend of uptempo songs that bounce along happily (“Simpletons”) or moodily (“In the Subway”), classic Bats midtempo janglers (the title track, the beautifully sad “See Right Through Me”), slower songs that unspool gracefully (“On the Bank”), and the occasional surprise (like the instrumental “Canopy”). To say it’s exactly what you’d expect from a Bats record is not even remotely a criticism; instead, it is the highest praise possible. Unlike a band that just keeps repeating itself with quickly diminishing results, the Bats have managed to maintain a ridiculously high level of quality throughout their career, and Free All the Monsters is as good a record as they’ve ever made.

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