Review – A Cricket in Times Square

Author: Kyle McConaghy
Source: Stylus
link to this article
 

Toying with post-rock formats, buckets of reverb, multiple guitar influences, 80s British vocals, and primitive production trickery, A Cricket In Times Square has harnessed a slick, yet roughhewn sound that will appeal to fans of The Smiths, Slint, Galaxie 500, and The Stone Roses, alike. Each song sounds as if it were recorded by that kid in your neighborhood who was a wizard with his Tascam 4-track. But the raw, rounded production bodes well with the subdued primal nature of the instruments. 

Taking a name derived from one of those sophisticated children’s books filed between a Roald Dahl novel and a collection of Shel Silverstein poetry, AciTS curiously sidesteps the connotations of their name by combining raucous guitar scrapes and screams that saturate a warm, surrounding atmosphere. The group sounds as if they were being played from one side of a gymnasium, with the condenser mic on the other, allowing the instruments to soak in the sound of the spaciousness. Violent, fuzzed-out guitar vibrato battles an airy Joey Santiago one-string rift in the dizzying, “5 1/2-minute Hallway”, while squealing guitar licks and gritty rhythm guitar create the musical backdrop for “Everything But Medicines”. These types of impressive, hyperactive guitar licks cover much of the album. 

But because of that cement wall reverb, the guitar work—though just as distorted and crazy-played as the following—never nears the dominant, guitar ferocity of a Ronson or Branca. The D.C. natives instead aspire and attain a sexy sound by suppressing the presence of the guitar in the final mix. The crisp drumming on a hollow-sounding kit—which recalls the tremendous Walkmen percussionist, Matt Barrick—along with Michael Tyler’s suave vocals, add a tamed, delicate side to the band’s overall sound. 

With a singing voice somewhere along the lines of Robert Smith, Ian McColloch and Mest’s Tony Lavado, Tyler delivers smooth, closet Brit-intonated melodies. His presence comes in varying degrees, sometimes lying low in the mix, melting nicely into the backing ensembles, while in other songs, his melodies are mixed loud enough to be a worthy focal point. Amidst the chugging, lo-fi rhythm guitar of “Careless”, Tyler’s buttery vocals are underlined by an increasing anxiousness as the backing track recycles a single chord progression throughout its five minute running time. He closes the album, sweetly and somberly in “Outliving Your Shadow”. Like Morrissey on downers, singing from the bottom of a well, Tyler nicely complements the track’s timbre of the watery, guitar arpeggios. 

Perhaps just as vital as Tyler’s melodies and the unique guitar production, ACiTS reminds us of the value of warm, analog recordings and reaffirm what commonly held true in the seventies—you can create a great album with less than 8 songs and 45 minutes of play time. The album’s directness and the dazzling musical content combine for an impressive debut release. 


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