Strike Fire Fall

Still Life

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Strike Fire Fall is not an imperative to punch out the Colorado-based country-rock band of the late '70s, not that that doesn't seem like a pretty good idea every time "You Are the Woman" comes on the radio. Instead, this Philadelphia quartet claims to sound like "your favorite band from 1996," a refreshingly direct admission of the band's relative unoriginality. (For the record, however, they don't sound one bit like either Stereolab or Yo La Tengo, most right-thinking hipsters' favorite bands in 1996.) There are some clever-clever bits on Still Life ("Freud Said It Was Cool" samples, without comment, bits of Tom Cruise's bizarre anti-anti-depressants rant from the summer of 1995), but for the most part, this is completely straightforward pop-punk with the emphasis on the first side of the hyphen. It's no coincidence that Strike Fire Fall are signed to former Yellowcard guitarist Ben Harper's Takeover label (a connection they won in a widely publicized 2004 online contest), because the Florida crew is clearly a major influence on Still Life. Add a violin to ultra-poppy tunes like the jangly "U-Turn" and they would sound like outtakes from Ocean Avenue. There are far worse bands to sound like than Yellowcard -- god help us all, they could try to sound like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah -- but the best songs on Still Life suggest something deeper is in play here. Oddball touches like the way the strident, riff-rocking "Awkward Pose" takes a bizarre but delightful midsong left turn into '70s soft rock, complete with deliberately cheesy sax solo, suggest a smarter than average set of minds at work here, and a less tentative exploration of Strike Fire Fall's freakier side would potentially garner a far more interesting follow-up.

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