Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Flin Flon / Dixie / Rating: 6.5

"Like a cartographer who leaves no location on a map unnamed, Flin Flon sticks to familiar territory on Dixie, never truly exploring its sound or venturing into the unknown"

PFM goes on to say: "To fulfill the experimental quota, the record is book-ended by two punishingly hyperactive drum solos, "Cavendish" and "Capstick", courtesy of drummer Matt Datesman."

Punishing? I call 99.9% of the Load Records catalog overflowing with truly punishing drum solos. These particular pieces, just over 1 minute long, sound more like a Duane Eddy surf song with all the instrument tracks turned down and the snare, kick, and tom turned up.

PFM says: “Flin Flon are always tight, but these songs are almost choked to death as the band seldom shifts tempo or uses silence or space to add depth to the compositions.”

But there is space! I think what PFM is confused by is how Flin Flon chooses to apply space to their compact song structures. Space when buried among mostly metronome rapid fire playing sounds more like a breath than genuine moments of silence. Flin FLon’s guitar is NOT omnipresent on Dixie and instead it plays whack-a-mole timing with the bass, drum, and vocals. What’s between the hide and go seek whacks? Space, that’s what.

Call Flin Flon a one trick pony but what can I say, I like their one trick.

*I love repetitive bass lines that sound like classic riot grrrl anthems that I as a not very good bass player, could maybe play along to in theory.

*I heart Robinson’s curious choice of wording, topics, ruler measured phrasing and limited yet not limiting melodies.

*I admire a drummer who often sounds more machine than man.

The difference to me, and this is after following the band for all 5 + years of their recording career, these guitar parts are more complex than ever. (Being the craptastic guitar player that I am, I definitely can’t play along with these) While they are still angular and often dissonant, don’t let the simplicity of its sound fool you; these piercing sneak attacks are sniper precise. The Flin Flon characteristic one note hits are still there but this time they are balanced out with glass chime chords and I suspect if you sped up a Fugazi lp to 45 RPMs you might get something that resembles Mark Robinson’s guitar playing in 2006.

Also after some careful note taking (nerd alert) the only difference I can spot between the two versions of “Cardigan” (besides the few seconds in length) which appears on the record is this: the ringing guitar tone on the “encore” version (all the other instruments duck out) comes in 10 seconds before the first version’s. I fake like I know a little something about this topsy turvy world of indie music but I can’t pretend I understand why a band would bother placing nearly identical versions of the same song on a release.

Flin Flon remains my favorite M. Robinson band to date (tho it should be stated this is not his band but rather the drummer and bass players’) and (you can keep Unrest) while this robotic dance soundtrack isn’t something I can promise will please all, Dixie is as good, if not better than their other records and earns a 7.5 rating by me.

Lastly for those familiar with Teenbeat's aesthetics, this record’s packaging falls nothing short of a graphic designer’s wet dream and for those of us who like easy to read liner notes, you will curse this glossy reading challenge. (4AD meets Factory with maybe a hint of Hydra Head)

PS: To continue with my love for all that relates to the Garden State, all three Flin Flon members lived in NJ as youngsters.