Volcano!

Piñata

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The third effort from experimental Chicago indie rock trio Volcano!, 2012's Piñata is a raucous, somewhat cerebral mix of modernist post-punk and melodic noise rock. In that sense, Piñata builds upon the manic exuberance and quirky percussive vibe of its predecessor, 2008's Paperwork. Centered around the disgruntled croon of lead singer/guitarist Aaron With, bassist/keyboardist Mark Cartwright, and drummer Sam Scranton, Volcano! bring to mind a mix of the rambling and chaotic '80s new wave of the Fall, the frantic art rock of Talking Heads, and, on occasion, the more experimental end of Radiohead. Tracks like the rambling "So Many Lemons" and the epic "Platebreaker" are huge-eyed, exclamatory, and grandiose nuggets of fractured art-school punk. With their layered, paint-spattered approach to music-making, a lot of the tracks on Piñata have a haphazardly layered, pasted-together feel, like a musical papier-mâché model. That notion is reinforced by the title track lyrics in which With coos, in his best Bryan Ferry lilt, "On a black market for a white birthday suit/Dress me like confetti-cake: red and orange and gold and blue and green." There is also a literate, poetic quality to Volcano!'s music, as on the atmospheric "Fighter," in which With, his voice hovering over a cinematic sheen of synth, plodding drums, and reverb-laden guitar, pleads, "I wish I could turn my hands into knives." It's an effective bit of mid-album theatricality that deftly combines the languid and brooding late-night lyricism of Leonard Cohen with the distraught yelp of Radiohead's Thom Yorke. But while there is certainly deliberate archness about Volcano!'s brand of noise rock, there is certainly nothing cute, precious, or preconceived about it. Nobody is going to mistake this for classic rock, or garage rock revival. But Volcano! definitely have rock guts, even if, like the title of the album implies, they are candy-colored, disparately shaped guts, spattered about your party.

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