Review Summary: Hooky guitar/synth rock collides with obnoxious noise to create a frenzied record of controlled chaos that is almost too much fun.
Add the frenetic drumming of Lightning Bolt
's Brian Chippendale to accessible pop melodies and chord progressions that wouldn't be out of place in a Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
song. Now throw a bunch of guitar noise over the top, as well as some truly danceable synthesizers and have Damien Jurado
circa 1999 on vocals and you have the basis for Mapmaker
, the third album of New York noise rock trio Parts & Labor
. Simply put, Mapmaker
carves out a niche unique to Parts & Labor
and puts them into the upper tier of indie rock groups for the 00s along with peers such as TV on the Radio
and Broken Social Scene
At times, Mapmaker
sounds like it could have been given the Zaireeka
treatment if the band had so desired. Each song is full of strong hooks and even stronger chord progressions, but equally proportioned is the amount of chaotic noise in each track. In fact, it's not difficult to imagine Parts & Labor recording each song in the studio as accessible indie rock tunes and then throwing noise in the vein of a poppier Black Dice
over the top, so much so that the two elements seem beautifully mashed together rather than totally intertwined. Opener "Fractured Skies" is probably the best example of the record as a whole. Beginning with frenzied drumming and atonal synth noise, melody and harmony are gradually added in with the vocals and bass guitar until the second half of the track when a brass section takes the lead with a beautifully upbeat melody.
It has to be said and perhaps it's a strange thing for an album of this genre, but at its core, Mapmaker
really is a vocal record. Songs evolve around vocal melodies and the strong chord progressions (however obscured they might be by noise and synths) exist for pure pop purposes; to support strong and catchy vocal hooks. As enjoyable as those hooks are, however, the true star of this record is drummer Chris Weingarten. To be blunt, he kills. His style is typically fast and very active, propelling each track forward at hyper speed. Both his cymbal work and double bass work is insanely quick, but it's not always just fast and tricky. "Unexplosions" and album centerpiece "Long Way Down" feature simple rhythms, but rhythms that are so thumpingly powerful that Weingarten is always the backbone (and often more) of the song. "Brighter Days" is an exercise in controlled chaos that juxtaposes rhythmically simple and strong hook-led verses with spastic choruses that are just as catchy. Hell, Weingarten even throws in a few blast beats towards the end of the song for good measure.
, Parts & Labor have successfully blended the spastic, obnoxious noise of peers Black Dice and Lightning Bolt with the hooky synth/guitar rock of bands such as Wolf Parade
. Much like Battles
' debut LP Mirrored
carves out a unique sound for Parts & Labor that will surely place them amongst the ranks of this decade's indie rock elite. Strongly cohesive, Mapmaker
is a thoroughly excellent record; a great achievement for Parts & Labor and one that should suit fans of catchy indie rock and more inaccessible noise rock alike. Plus it's just so damn fun.
Knives and Pencils