Schizo Fun Addict

The Atom Spark Hotel

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In the four years since Diamond appeared, the off-center New York City alternative rock scene angled its way into the mainstream picture, the Strokes, of course, taking their ennui international and combos like Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV on the Radio drawing lavish attention from critics and garnering some amount of commercial success as well. Those two things are probably (though hopefully not) long shots where Schizo Fun Addict is concerned, not necessarily because the band is eccentric, even by the standards of the indie N.Y.C. scene -- which is true enough -- but because they spend so much time on their uncategorizable records exploring the edges, existing in the margins, accentuating the enigmatic aspects of an experience, elevating them, in fact, into the main spectacles themselves. As a listener, you have to want the experience, and you have to meet it halfway before it is likely to lay bare any of its revelations. Schizo doesn't so much make music as manufacture holy emotional ordeals, energy transfers, and metaphysical happenings, and musical notes just happen to be the most conducive building blocks toward those ends. It's about the "aha" moment, the sudden bliss that arrives in the midst of an avalanche of detritus, finding a pattern in the disarray. That is a lot of psychic weight, certainly, to pack onto the backs of what are, presumably, pop songs, but the band managed just that trick on its first two radiantly unkempt albums, with brilliant and, though they may not exactly be easy to hum, rather accessible results -- accessible being a relative term, of course. And The Atom Spark Hotel is every bit the equal of its predecessors. Although each, in its own way, has been personal, this album is also the band's most primal and intensely heart-on-sleeve statement yet. They reintroduce themselves at the outset by conducting a sweet 'n' sour travelogue through their desolate earliest days on the title track (later reprised as majestic post-punk) and then kick into high gear on the glam Frank and Walters remake "Fashion Crisis Hits New York." You simply can't guess how a Schizo Fun Addict record is going to progress -- witness the unpredictable zigs and zags of "Solon," tuneful pop to corrosive guitar mayhem to wonderfully wonky electro-funk, or the awesome organic techno of "Mordecai Killed the Video Star," which vacillates between levee-breaking heaviness and pure groove -- and it's not necessarily even easy to describe after you've followed all its whims. But this is challenging, shaggy, touchingly exposed music, not for everyone perhaps, yet it can bring you up short like a perfect hymn at the perfect moment if it catches you just right, or you catch it.

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