Tones on Tail

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Pop Review

by Ned Raggett

The trio's one actual album is an impressive, wide-ranging effort collaging a range of influences into an inspired, often unpredictable experience. With their former band's generally gloomier shadows left behind, what Ash and Haskins draw from their time with Bauhaus is that group's melange of styles -- their most underappreciated strength. Ash, with his breathy purrs and slinky all-around singing, works absolute magic on the quieter numbers, while more strident pieces like the nervous tension of "War" benefit from his abilities at more upfront projection as the need arises. Campling isn't quite as strong a bassist as, say, David J, but he is more than fine. In the simple but effective work he does on the opening "Lions," for instance, his deep, fuzzy but not fuzztone effort locks the samba feeling of the song into place perfectly. Haskins, meanwhile, is as in form as Ash, offering up everything from minimal tapping and textures to full-bodied slams. Variety is clearly the spice of Pop's life; the goofy, jazzy swing of "Happiness" and catchy, dark shimmer of "Performance" are miles from "Real Life" and its brittle, bitter acoustic/electric sentiments. Though one could call the album schizophrenic in form, it's all still clearly the work of one group with a set vision rather than a bunch of musicians chasing after any number of styles. One of the most hilarious, truly trippy songs ever recorded by anyone is right in the album's middle -- "Slender Fungus" -- consisting of Ash's nonsense main lyric, weirdly soothing backing vocals, and an utterly strange percussion loop that sounds like people clicking their tongues more than anything else. Pop ends on a fine high note with the ambient-into-slow-paced-rock of "Rain." Ash's crooning has rarely been finer, while the sheets of organ and e-bowed guitar that introduce and then continue throughout the song are as atmospheric as it can get.

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