Review Summary: Solid if unspectacular Indie Rock made with honesty and passion.
Let me get this out of the way first, I love Anytown Grafitti, I really do. I’ve listened to it countless times over the past year and it’s given me a lot of joy. But sometimes, no matter how much you love something, you can see its limitations, you can see its faults. It would be stupid of me to run into the room, start jumping on furniture and wildly declaring this to be one of the great underrated albums of the decade, all it is is an album with some cracking songs but no real innovation.
What we have here is an indie album made by a group of men from that great big land between New York and L.A called America. And it sounds like it too, this album isn’t textured with Interpol’s dank greys or The Arcade Fires warm strings, though they both influence parts of the album. The album is more optimistic than either of those bands but Pela never really establishes a trademark sound. You’ve heard this before, but the one thing Pela has to their credit is that they write a damn good tune.
The album opens with “Waiting On The Stairs” which comes through with a fast drum beat making up for the pretty forgettable guitar. But Lead Vocalist Billy McCarthy has a powerful voice that really rackets up the pace until the song gets into its stride and sets off the album quite well.
Next up is “Lost To The Lonesome”, which as far as I know was the albums only single. Its got a driving bass lines and is overall a more interesting song than Stairs. We also begin to see the lyrics emerge as a driving force behind the songs, keeping the pace up throughout the verses and lining up the sing along choruses.
This is followed by “Drop Me Off” which continues in the same vein. A pattern is emerging here with the driving bass lines, forgettable lead guitar, and vicious rhythm. “Trouble With River Cities” is one of the second types of song on the album, a slower gentler piece that has a nicer melody and is well placed before the return to frantic Indie rock with “Cavalry”.
“Cavalry” is one of the highlights of the album for me. It has by far the best riff and every member of the band shines in their own ways with great drumming, fine singing and a catchy chorus. It even has a solo, and it a works wonderfully. The next song of note is “Tenement Teeth” which is close to being Cavalry’s equal. These two songs are examples of one of the things I haven’t touched on until now in that this album doesn’t feel manufactured, it has a heart and a soul that combine to make it greater than the sum of its parts. Teeth also showcases McCarthy’s ability to put real rhythm in his lyrics, any song where the line “According to the pages in books on modern psychology” sounds natural and unstilted deserves more than applause, maybe some whooping.
The last big song on the album is “Anytown Graffiti” itself, its a slow song with beautiful harmonies soaring over McCarthy’s voice. Its probably the most emotional song on the album and brings it full circle just in time for the ending. 7th and 17th follows after it, but that’s very much in bonus track territory.
So overall this is a solid album, not spectacular. It doesn’t have any big ideas about itself, just some solid songwriting and good ole honest musicianship, nothing fancy about it. And maybe that’s why its so likeable, its a genuinely charming heart-warming album that you can just sit back and listen to, nothing complicated. There was potential here in this album, its a huge pity that Pela wont make another record. They split in September 09 after a horrible run of bad luck. The simplicity and honesty they put into this album might just be missed by the few that will hear it.