Mistle Thrush

Super Refraction

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Super Refraction managed the neat trick of combining several different strands of indie pop and other music in one place. "Stupid Song" itself is a lovely purée -- Todd Demma's drums suggest post-Madchester baggy funk, Valerie Forgione's singing calls to mind early Cranberries without the stridency and more sly cool, the cascading guitars are neo-psych/shoegaze mania, the quieter parts of the arrangement are a touch Portishead-tinged. That may all sound like a recipe for disaster for some groups, but in the hands of the quintet it becomes a rich vein to draw on, and more often than not tunes like "Train Song" come up trumps as flat-out winners. If anything, Super Refraction almost suggests an alternate path for alternative rock if the Nirvana breakthrough hadn't happened -- no brutal grunge and plenty of spirited dabbling, helped very well by Kurt Ralske's fine co-production with the group. The earlier bliss-out roots of the band are perfectly apparent (the end of "Sha Sha" is all one needs to hear for confirmation), but the bandmembers have given the arrangements more space to find an individual approach, a bit like how the Boo Radleys similarly used noise pop as a start rather than as an end point. The blend of Matthew Kattman and Scott Patalono's guitars often makes for wonderful results -- check out the combination of gentle chime and heavy-duty flanging on "Do You Know This Bird?" for a real winner. "Yellow Day" is probably the album's secret highlight, a miniature epic that subtly builds to a stirring, martially drummed conclusion, Forgione in wonderful voice throughout. Her singing is a definite treat, both a good calling card for the group and a fine instrument for giving the quieter numbers more bite and the louder moments a gentler attractiveness. "Moth-Like" readily moves between the two extremes, while "Escapades in Glass" rivals "Yellow Day" for general success, a study in tension and release that avoids blunter loud/soft/loud approaches.

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