Selling Out in the Silent Era

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The debut effort from New York three-piece Stereobate is an ambitious effort that, though not instantly catchy in the way a band like Jawbox is, should help the band establish their niche among indie rock mathsters and guitar enthusiasts alike. Not exactly getting things off to a singalong start, album-opener "Let's Make a Foreign Film!" is composed of sparse dialogue samples mixed among sounds that bring to mind helicopter-filled warzones or lawnmower-dominated suburbs, the noise of which nearly obscures the band playing in the garage down the street. "Here, Bass" -- with its dynamic shifts, off-kilter guitar lines, and primal drumming -- is drenched in Fugazi and even a little bit of early Girls Against Boys, which combines to sound a bit like a stripped-down Les Savy Fav. This shouldn't be too surprising given that Girls Against Boys' Eli Janney co-produced Selling out in the Silent Era, and that Stereobate shares a hometown with Les Savy Fav, namely Brooklyn, NY. A brightly arpeggiated instrumental number, the misleadingly titled "The French Letter," again sneaks into Les Savy Fav territory, generally sticking closer to the quieter Favs of "Je Taime" and "False Starts" rather than the full-on rock stars of "Who Rocks the Party" and "I.C. Timer," though the song does build into a powerful ending. The album's clear standout track is the dizzying, left/right speaker-panning "When Radio Came." Something like the indie rock answer to "Video Killed the Radio Star," "When Radio Came" offers thoughtfully anthemic lines like: "When radio came the stars came out/When video came the sky got crowded/When radio came we all heard voices/Then video came and killed my chances." The chorus is huge, vocally and musically, making it nearly astonishing to think that all of this was created by merely three musicians. "Jazz Is for Russians" begins with a sound reminiscent of radar bleeps or the noises dolphins make and evolves into what is ultimately more of a sound collage than a song. Interesting, avant, and experimental, but probably not something you would cheer for them to play live. Another of the few songs with actual vocals, the fierce and complex "Jerry Jones" returns to the band's previously established penchant for Fugazi-esque shifts in dynamic, to brilliant results (as good as, if not better than, anything the D.C. boys themselves have offered up in quite some time). A band with a seeming split personality, one inclined toward experimental instrumentals and the other having mastered the art of smart, explosive indie rock, Stereobate should appeal to a wide audience, especially if one personality or the other dominates long enough to complete an entire, cohesive record.