I feel cleansed, fresh, wonderful. But let me start at the beginning.
Last year, a curiously simple little brown-fronted CD-EP landed in the review pile, from a band called Bats & Mice. Finding out it consisted of three quarters of Sleepytime Trio, I flipped out like a ninja and ran around in a hyper haze of nerd joy. Then I listened to it. The first disappointment was that Bats & Mice were undeniably an emo band. The second disappointment was that I really, really liked them.
Well, a little over a year after the release of that self-titled EP, Bats & Mice return with its first full-length. Believe It Mammals is still emo – gentle, heartfelt songs of interpersonal discontent with heavy doses of melody and plaintive vocal delivery – but it’s nowhere near as powerful as the three songs the group released last year.
The lineup has changed: it is now half of Sleepytime (Ben Davis and David Nesmith) and half of Four Hundred Years (Ash Bruce and Daron Hollowell). Jonathon Fuller’s absence has undoubtedly skewed the songwriting somewhat, but the je ne sais quoi of the 2001 B&M release was its eerie, sparse simplicity. The expansion of the band to four musicians sacrifices this simplicity for a greater range of songwriting options and the overall result suffers somewhat.
That’s not to say Believe It Mammals is without redeeming qualities. Davis’ voice is as slippery as Thom Yorke’s, and there are times when the band floors listeners with volume dynamics. Bats & Mice especially shine when it comes to harmonies, finding a distinctive middle ground between shoegazer spacyness and garage-y roughness. Songs like “Worst Comes to Worst” and “A Polished Facade” (once you get past the awful intro) play interesting dissonance games and are easily a cut above the middle-of-the-road Braid wannabes that currently clog college radio. But again, nothing on Believe It Mammals comes near to the viscerality of the self-titled, which means I no longer like an emo band in a wholehearted, unqualified manner.
And thus, shower or no, I am no longer dirty.
[DJ Fatkid loves all of you, except you.]