The Fluoride Program

Roadside Flowers

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The Fluoride Program's first full-length release builds upon the promise that their 2005 EP Bastion hinted at. The group whispers and screams with a bright tunefulness and a sense of dynamic that is in rare supply in most of their post-rock contemporaries. Ever since Radiohead apparently decided that guitars were old hat, many indie rockers have relied on twiddling electronics to build the walls of their sonic architecture, but on Roadside Flowers, the Fluoride Program injects piano, layers of harmony vocals, and even the occasional viola into the scree and wail of guitars and rolling hi-hat to build a textural feel without the overused drone of synthesized sound. This is a real band, playing in time with each other, and pushing sound around a real room. The totemic pulse of the album's highlight, "Lucus," puts drummer Steve Bekkala and guitarist Justin King (doing a startling Jonny Greenwood impression, whether he knows it or not) into a locked-horns battle of percussion and distorted strings. The song only reaches climactic conclusion when the tolling bell of Steve Motrinc's bass ushers in Dmitri Vada's impassioned vocals, acting as a divine referee and bringing unification to the song's cinematic conclusion. The abrupt thunderclap that ends "Designs" after a collision of soundscape gives way to another screenplay, this time evoking "The Great Gig in the Sky" as interpreted by the Velvet Teen on "All Is Still in Working Order." The album peaks in the ten-minute epic "Cowards," which reaches levels of prog indulgence -- shifting time signatures and tempos, offering bright noodling guitar lines in the beginning, only to be obliterated by a stomping factory of unexpected dissonant guitar and Emotional Rescue-era back-alley funk. Roadside Flowers is quietly put to bed with the simple "Sundial," a molasses-slow makeout session of Stax soul instrumentation and summertime AM pop. "Quietly we've become older than we care to admit/At sundown we'll meet again." This entire album takes more turns than a game of Othello between two seven year olds, and is equally full of unexpected surprises: just when the whole thing starts to make sense, the colors all flip and the game begins anew.

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