Monday, March 24, 2008

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
Polydor Records
April 8, 2008


Like the late world figure the band borrows its moniker from, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin entered the game with ambitious democratic intentions. Unlike the first president of Russia, though, this quartet from Missouri has largely delivered on their promises several years in. Every member of SSLYBY (an acronym which, with each passing use, becomes more accommodating) gets his equal piece of the gorgeous pie that is Pershing, the fantastic follow-up to the group’s 2005 debut Broom. I haven’t heard another record all year that enabled me to fall in love with it so quickly, and I’m not so sure that I will in the foreseeable future.

Where to start? I suppose one doesn’t have to look further than Pershing’s opening track, “Glue Girls”, which begins with an acoustic strain and no sooner develops into an aerial indie-pop assault, complete with drums whose fidelity lends the band its raw, live texture. Phillip Dickey’s and John Cardwell’s transient vocals then enter the mix, harmonizing immediately with each other to emphasize the simplicity of lyrical vignettes like “tongues sticking to the sun.”

Dangly clean guitars appear, disappear, and reappear again amidst a backdrop of syncopated rhythms, and this is all before it hits: that giant chorus. A melody so good that neither Rivers Cuomo, Brian Wilson nor Adam Schlesinger thought of it first, it briefly arrives, and teases us like a double entendre, and then is put to rest for the next minute before it comes back and lets us breathe and smile again upon its return. Then, when it looks like it’s safe to presume the song won’t delve any further into uncharted waters, drummer Jonathan James skids into a cowbell solo.

Here’s what makes Pershing great, though: it works. All of it. Every wonderful twist and turn, every unconventional riff, and every uncertain concord is engaging and masterful enough to excuse every potential misstep (and there aren’t many.) The members of SSLYBY proudly wear their collective influences on their sleeves; there’s no question about it. Dickey’s voice is an update of James Mercer’s, guitarist Will Knauer arguably apes much of his playing from Frank Black and Stephen Malkmus.

In fact, there’s lots of Pixies and Pavement all over the record; Pershing could easily fit right next to Slanted and Enchanted and Surfer Rosa in the grand scheme of seminal indie works from the late 80s and early 90s. Rather than merely being content with these just comparisons, though, the band one-ups its elders by adding decidedly modern cues from today’s playbook: the fuzzy bass in “You Could Write A Book” and the stuttering hi-hat reliance in “Modern Mystery” are taken from some of the band’s contemporary kindred spirits.

There’s so much to become infatuated with throughout the course of Pershing’s 34 minutes that to point out every hook in every nook would do the entire record a severe disservice. Fall for the whole thing in one sitting – I can guarantee you will – and then pick up on its subtleties with every repeated listening. You’ll notice the Herp Alpert horn section in “Boring Fountain”, and the warped use of Pachelbel’s Canon in the infectious “Think I Wanna Die”. The production, both shoddy and pristine, cannot and should not work any other way. It suits the band perfectly; fitting, as they recorded and mixed the record entirely themselves. To add another outside hand in the process would’ve perhaps taken away from the creativity and inimitability the band achieved as a whole.

In the process of taking the old, honoring it, and fusing it with the new, SSLYBY has set its own standard – and perhaps every like-minded independent band’s as well – with Pershing, the first truly great record of our still-young 2008. This is perfect pop music with delightful imperfections.

- Andrew Daniels

Pershing comes out April 8 on Polyvinyl Records. Hear "Glue Girls" and "Think I Wanna Die" at

1 comment:

Sarah Wilkes said...

You're absolutely right. The more I listen to this album, the more I appreciate it.