Baltimore's Expert Alterations' debut album is a breathless rush of post-punk angularity, jittery indie pop songcraft, and stripped-down guitar-bass-drums-vocals punk energy. You Can't Always Be Liked was recorded quickly over a three-day span but it doesn't sound sloppy or rushed. The trio are in full command of both their stuttering style and their punchy sound. Patrick Teal's guitar slashes and bites, giving the songs a jolt of solid-state electricity. Alan Everhart's melodic basslines do much of the heavy lifting musically, sparring with Teal's pleasantly yelped vocals like a bantamweight boxer. Paul Krolian's tough-as-steel drumming anchors the songs and slips in some sneaky blows here and there, especially with his lightning-fast tom-tom work. Apart from the occasional keyboard flourish, that's all there is. Three guys doling out sharp, snappy indie pop songs with a maximum of control and hooks that are impossible to duck. The bulk of the album is uptempo tracks that make even the most ungainly indie pop fans want to get up and move around, maybe even dance. The way the group dash through "Sort Out" and the title track will quicken pulses, the thumping "Don't Want to Go" is a happily petulant little song that will inspire air drumming (and features a surprising middle-section breakdown), and when they tie a lovely melody in with the spiky rumble, like on "The Past and You," it's very nearly magical. They balance all the bustling sounds with some more relaxed moments, like the loping "Midnight Garden" and the restrained "Nowhere Slowly," that let the listener take an occasional breath. It's not long before the band take off on another jangling, crashing flight of a decidedly non-fancy nature. Expert Alterations do keep things simple on You Can't Always Be Liked, but that doesn't mean they aren't doing anything interesting. The band deliver on the promise of the debut EP, and employ their (even more) feverish energy, impassioned performances, and jumpy sounds to create some truly fun and frolicsome indie pop with a scrappy post-punk heart.
You Can't Always Be Liked
(Digital Download - Kanine Records #827175013969)
Review by Tim Sendra