Billy Mahonie

The Big Dig

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On the one hand it's easy -- almost too easy -- to trace the obvious lines of inspiration Billy Mahonie displays on its debut album, right from the tempo-shifting opening number "Watching People Speaking When You Can't Hear What They're Saying." One gets the distinct feeling the entire Thrill Jockey catalog takes up a corner of at least one band member's room, not to mention dollops of stuff from Touch and Go/Quarterstick such as Don Caballero or a fair amount of Louisville-based bands. Even the songtitles sound like something that would come from that neck of the woods, slightly transmogrified for the group's U.K. origins: "We Accept American Dollars," "William Derbyshire," "Manywhere m5." Get past the increasingly more meaningless post-rock label, though, and the half-quiet and slightly pretty and half-crank it up and let fly approach of the quartet still has the power to catch the ear. If the quartet isn't as powerful through and through as Mogwai, the individual players do know what they're doing and effectively create the necessary mood throughout. Baker's guitar abilities extend to a little bit of rawer twang here and there, which makes for a nice bit of difference in the sometimes too bloodless field, while everyone else keeps the rhythms and occasional time changes going well enough. "Flagiolettes" is the first number on Big Dig that really stands out, with a nicely moody bass crawl and sharp, steady drumming from Monk setting the pace, while the brief "Manywhere m1" has what sounds like a mandolin as lead, a good change from the expected. Its cousin "Manywhere m5," also a quick one, has a deep percussion echo that's quite lovely; a pity the song itself wasn't longer, as it sounds like the great start of something cool. In the end, Big Dig is good background music with some high points.

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