Rubble Guts & BB Eye, the debut album from Preteen Zenith, opens with a gently garbled, warped, and possibly sped-up-sounding peaceful folk song called "Breathe." A little after the two-minute mark, loud instrumentation comes in to fill out the otherwise muted, barely there beginnings of the song with stereo-panned drums and large-chorus vocals crumbling shortly into discordant flutes and orchestra pit noises. The contrast between the distant, faded intro and dynamic explosion of jubilation is drastic and announces the record's arrival. From that point on, Rubble Guts & BB Eye is a series of full-force, technicolor pop blasts and a non-stop debate of dynamics between overwhelmingly huge sounds and hyper-detailed quiet ones. It's no surprise that the mind behind Preteen Zenith is Tim DeLaughter of Polyphonic Spree and Tripping Daisy, aided primarily by Phillip Karnats, also a one-time member of Tripping Daisy as well as Secret Machines. The same cracked positivity and penchant for enormous and communal sounds that defined the best moments of the Polyphonic Spree are present throughout the album, especially when the mantra-esque large vocal arrangements on songs like "Relief" or "Maker" kick in. While the Spree could sometimes look so deeply inward they forgot to just rock a little and have some non-existential fun, DeLaughter tempers his dewy-eyed wonderment here with some wonderfully carefree rocking out. The combination of thoughtful lyrics, complex melodies, and intricate electronic touches on songs like "Peddling," or the Erykah Badu cameo in "Damage Control," are reminiscent of the most successful Granddaddy moments. Preteen Zenith also follows a lot of the same paths as the Flaming Lips, sometimes to a derivative degree. Then again, DeLaughter has been approaching this kind of life-affirming psychedelic pop under one moniker or another since the early '90s, making the Lips more a contemporary of the band than a direct influence. While Preteen Zenith doesn't exist entirely as an extension of the chamber pop magic of the Polyphonic Spree, it doesn't feel like a trumped-up solo project by the main guy, either. Tracks like the beautiful "Overcome" find the midway of soul-searching singer/songwriter intimacy and huge Arcade Fire- or MGMT-style large ensemble pop arrangements. DeLaughter never lingers too long on any of the meaning-of-life questions that make up his songs before dropping a hooky chorus, an interesting dynamic shift, or an otherworldly sound so large and ear-catching it's enough to make us forget the question in the first place.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas