Crystal Skulls

Outgoing Behavior

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One would be forgiven for assuming the Crystal Skulls were some metal-edged stoner rock band, but the Seattle quartet's second album is actually a creamy blend of '70-style soft rock (think 10cc, Wings, Al Stewart's Year of the Cat) and the softer side of the Chicago school of post-rock as exemplified by the Aluminum Group and the Sea and Cake. In other words, these 11 songs are filled with airy melodies and AM radio hooks (note the dead-perfect pedal steel guitar accents on "Baby Boy"), but they're paired with a deliberately detached, cerebral air. Die-hard Goodbye Yellow Brick Road fans may well find this album too distant and chilly to fully embrace, but meeting the ironically titled Outgoing Behavior on its own reserved terms reveals that singer/songwriter Christian Wargo has a remarkable knack for pure pop melody. The title track is a particular delight, with vintage synth whirs straight out of the High Llamas playbook and an instantly appealing tune and Wargo's winsome, boyish delivery of his playfully skewed, opaque lyrics. "Treat It Right" is equally fine, recalling Paul McCartney's frothier moments circa Venus and Mars right down to the falsetto vocals and rockabilly-tinged guitar riffs. Overall, Outgoing Behavior has a sunnier, more easygoing feel than the occasionally dour Steely Dan-meets-Tortoise aspects of 2005's Blocked Numbers suggested, and it suits the Crystal Skulls quite nicely. Bit of a shame about the band name, though.

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