Protest a Dark Anniversary

Masters Of The Hemisphere

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Protest a Dark Anniversary Review

by Richie Unterberger

Masters of the Hemisphere might be more winsome than wonderful, but the band's third album is quality pop/rock, guitar-based but intelligently dotted with crafty touches of low-key orchestral instruments, cheesy organ, and the like. It also isn't unduly self-consciously rooted in celebration of vintage rock idioms, though some reference points are there. "Sailboat Kite," for instance, recalls some of the more whimsical work of the late-'60s and early-'70s Beach Boys, the folk-rocky (and sometimes pretty Byrds-y) guitars are influenced by the school of Southern indie pop bands from R.E.M. on down, and the likably high, earnest, sometimes wavering vocals will appeal to Alex Chilton fans. Refreshingly, they don't limit themselves to romance and relationships, as many guitar indie pop bands largely do. Rather, they often seem somewhere between bemused and befuddled observer-participants in a slightly skewed world, one in which the "Rules of Life" are vague. Sometimes those observations get a little weird and inscrutable, as in the ode to "Local Government" (surely one of the more infrequently tapped subjects of rock lyrics). At other times there's a more heartfelt and direct youthful yearning for interpersonal connection, like "Summer With You," where the Chilton-esque elements come to the fore.

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