I Mistici dell'Occidente

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On Mistici dell'Occidente, Baustelle strike close to the point where post-punk and goth rock separated -- not such a big surprise, perhaps, for a band whose name draws on Bauhaus, if inadvertently. The good thing is, they pull it off without turning the record into a retro-rock exercise that is content with reproducing what other people have done before; the not so good thing is that, while Mistici dell'Occidente does not sound obsolete, it's also less thrilling when it comes to actual songwriting. This is less obvious on the uptempo rock songs that form the bulk of the record -- the guitars combine the energy of '80s goth rock with a jangly sound of Television, early R.E.M., or even Mission of Burma, but avoid sounding either too grim or too quirky thanks to a healthy doze of Italian melodies. Those may recall the ├╝ber-kitschy pop of Adriano Celentano, but ease the mood and save the record from the overly somber and lofty vibe it would otherwise have, partly due to monotone vocals, which come in male and female variations, but remain deadly pompous throughout, and partly because of the slower songs, drenched in plodding guitar textures and background synths and strings and sounding almost like hymns. There is nothing wrong with that, per se, but it feels like creating the mood of a chamber drama is the main thing that Baustelle are interested in -- which means they don't give much attention to hooks. Mistici dell'Occidente has some genuinely catchy songs, such as "La Canzone della Rivoluzione," but for the most part, the record is an acquired taste reserved for those who prefer dramatics over dynamics.

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