The High-Back Chairs

Of Two Minds

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The only full album the High-Back Chairs released, Of Two Minds is the closest Dischord ever came to pure power pop delight, and that's exactly what's on display. The punk roots of everyone involved aren't far off, but these aren't the buzzsaw hooks of the Ramones so much as the more winsome, if still sharp around the edges, approach as, say, the dBs or even XTC here and there. Drummer Jeff Nelson's career arc makes for an interesting parallel to Ian Mackaye's as a result (and certainly for the better when it comes to Brian Baker, who at this point was hip deep in the Junkyard atrocity). Admittedly Nelson isn't the main guy here -- that would be lead guy Peter Hayes, who has a great knack for friendly melodies and harmonies, and an even better singing voice for them all. Every so often a slightly more familiar (given the label) aggro edge surfaces, thus "Take Away" and its rougher punch and spindly lead guitar, but other songs like "Afterlife" are just too likeable to be moshpit anthems, for all that the band are rocking out darn well, without apology. Meanwhile, Hayes has the same lyrical eye for the hypocrisy of the world and the importance of direct communication that many of his fellow labelmates possess -- he just delivers it with a lighter singing voice and never needs to shout. "Kiss & Tell" is a great example of this -- on the page, one can easily imagine a more raspy voiced delivered from, say, the Rites of Spring, but, when heard, Hayes turns into in a sparkling winner, the band backing him up with some hard-charging but never brutal energy.

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