Sunday, April 10, 2005

Books / Lost and Safe / Rating 7.0

I should have seen this coming.

Once pitchfork raises a band profile to the next big thing, the only place to go from there is down.( “Lemon of Pink” received an 8.2 and “Food for Thought” got an almost never heard of at the time 9.0) From the onset reviewer Mark Richardson had high expectations of what this record should sound like and by saying the first two releases felt like “gifts demanding little from the listener but paying out handsomely “ he was looking for another hand out. Bands are not slot machines with a guaranteed pay out so why treat them as such. Mark goes as far to explain the template of the first two releases but then condemns the band for moving one step forward, away from the tried and true formula he admittedly says they have already mastered. Vocals have not been predominately featured in the past and apparently the bands decision to change that on “Lost and Safe” deems the Books a genre bending failure in Pitchfork's eyes.

The Books are not a band with a SINGER in the typical sense as Mark is trying to sway us into believing. There is no Mick Jagger strutting with a microphone or a Morrissey with roses tucked into a back pocket. Nick Zammuto structures his vocals around its musical environment like an attentive architect dedicated to building a structure that truly reflects its natural environment. His vocals are often so delicate they carry the sheerness of lace rather than a wool blanket smothering any one given track. The reviewer is correct there IS more singing to be found on this particular record but in no way does it detract from what the Books have musically done best all along.

Calling “Lost and Safe” “conventional” and “pleasant enough” makes me wonder if Mr. Richardson and I listened to the same record at all. The music may not be obtusely unusual but the Books have absolutely retained their haunting sparse compositions and they firmly hold my attention from start to finish. Found samples, sound collage, and unusual instrumentation could have easily grown stale and predictable by the third release but with vocals playing a more important role than ever, there is scintillating new life to this band. This is exactly what makes this record so refreshing to me.

I am taking away Pitchfork’s library card for one month. They don’t deserve the Books.