Should It Stay or Should It Go?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Just Missed It


Apples In Stereo
Originally uploaded by bsglaser.
Artist: The Apples in Stereo
Albums: Tone Soul Evolution; Her Wallpaper Reverie
Source: Bought used (TSE); Bought new from the label (HWR)

It’s nearly the end of the second semester of my writing masters program, and I’m looking forward to having no classes for a few months (it may only be late April, but school’s almost out for summer!). I’m going part-time, which means I only take two courses a semester, unlike the other students who mostly take four.

By some cruel trick of scheduling and fate, during not one but both semesters this year, it seems I’ve neglected to take the really excellent courses. I hear the other folks talk about some class I’m not in, like Image and Belief or Writing II, and they all seem to agree that it’s that course, and not the one we’re sitting in during the conversation, that’s the one to take. I keep showing up, but am just missing out.

That’s sort of how I feel about The Apples in Stereo. By the time I showed up, the cool part of this Elephant 6 super-pop group was already over. Chris swears that the early singles are all a gas, and I have it on good authority that their debut LP, Fun Trick Noisemaker, lived up to all three parts of the title. And in the late 90s, nearly anything that reared its homemade head out of the E6 collective was something I wanted to at least give a listen to.

Tone Soul Evolution may only be the second official full-length album, but you can already hear the helium-infused air leaking out of the band. For every tune like “What’s the #?” which is about nothing at all and will stay in your head for a week if you’re not careful, there’s a half-baked piece of power pop like “Tin Pan Alley,” which only half-convincingly longs for a very specific time that probably never existed. It’s fun to hear, but it’s easy to have your attention wander at points – and it ain’t exactly an epically long record, so points off for having filler.

It’s nearly the opposite with Her Wallpaper Reverie, which is a short EP that is more like the old stuff but also newer. Essentially, it’s a compact reworking of Black Foliage, a great, sprawling double album that Head Apple Robert Schneider produced for his buddies The Olivia Tremor Control. Like that longer record, HWR lets layered pop songs rise out of odd and varied repetitions of an instrumental “theme,” each one alternately making way for the other, and before half an hour is up you’ve been hit with “Strawberryfire,” “Benefits of Lying (With Your Friend)” and…well, really I could just list all of the tracks. No one makes pop like this anymore, and really only the Elephant 6 guys ever did.

Beyond these, I skipped getting any other Apples records. Their time was clearly almost up, and before long they were officially defunct (that’s what happens when the singer and the drummer get married and then get divorced). Oh, and on the school front: I think I may have gotten a bead on which courses are the good ones for next semester…

SISOSIG? I’d feel like a fraud calling myself a Real Apples in Stereo Fan, but I do dig these discs. Wallpaper is a keeper without question, and there’s too much to recommend about Tone Soul to ditch it. Really, really good pop is harder to do than it looks (really, really hard I’d guess, based on the sheer amount of bad pop out there) and the Apples are as good a source for fun trick noisemaking as anything committed to tape.

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