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The Pacific Northwest seems to have produced an inordinate number of sprawling, messy, difficult-to-pinpoint indie rock bands throughout the early 2000s, and if their debut, Sirs, is any indication, Welcome can be counted among their number. They manage to conjure up the kind of spaced-out, grainy sound that nods to any number of psychedelic acts the '60s and '70s, including (and definitely not limited to) Syd Barrettand Love, while simultaneously managing to sound as scribbly, angular, and harsh as Dead Kennedys and, to an extent, the Soft Boys. They also manage to sound a little like Art Brut. Don't let this jumble of influences and the disc's hideous ninja-deer-and-ice-cream-cones album art scare you, though; Sirs is actually pretty coherent and satisfying in a grimy, tripped-out kind of way. For a messy, "artsy" band, Welcome are refreshingly hooky; "This Minute" marries dark, Velvet Underground-like vocals, garage rock griminess, and bouncy mid-'60s pop sensibilities to good effect, and "All Set" manages to toe the line between indulgent, tie-dyed trippiness and obtuse, weirdly addictive hooks ("Go forward forward, don't go back"). All this dripping psychedelia would somehow be just too much if there weren't a girl involved; Jo Claxton's breathy, Betty Marie Barnes-meets-Twinkle vocals offer a smooth counterbalance to Pete Brand's hoarse, John Lennon-like drawl, giving these songs (and "All Set" in particular) a depth and texture they wouldn't have if this were an all-male effort. Claxton-led tracks like "Bunky" feel like much-needed blast of fresh air next to heady, cigarette-smoky tracks like "Marry Me" and "Natural Frost." For all its strange angles and spaciness, Sirs is a satisfyingly pop-oriented debut.

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