(All Album Reviews by doh)
"This is transistor. This is the sound of our souls." With that "robotic whisper", the latest release from Monster Movie, transistor, begins. They describe themselves as "harmonica, keyboard, guitar, and a drum machine ushering in the death of autumn" and "these are the guys that draw hearts in snow drifts, bring light through black forest trees, and show little girls bursting from fallen apples." They continue that "the sound remains that old familiar blanket, a thick warm fuzz of guitar, a curious smattering of harmonica, and an echoing drizzle of vocals." That's a lot of words and a pretty poetic description but to me, the "sound of [their] souls" sounds an awful lot like Radiohead and Natalie Merchant from Ten Thousand Maniacs got together one afternoon and put out a quick album.
Let me start with the negative. This music is nothing new; in fact, "Left" sounds like it easily could have been a bonus track on the Limited Edition of Radiohead's OK Computer. It even includes the same distorted sound from the ending of "Karma Police". The most progressive part of the whole CD is the "robotic whisper" which opens the whole thing. To me, the whole CD sounds like they THINK they are a lot more artsy and cutting edge than they actually are. The CD contains of 7 very short songs for a total of almost 22 minutes, so there's not a lot of music here. There's also not a wide amount of variety between the songs, so if you don't like Radiohead, this is not the CD for you.
That said, let me continue with the positive. I DO like Radiohead and this CD is well produced and well done. Monster Movie has been around for a few years and they know what they are doing. Most of the tracks feature a female guest vocalist, Rachel Staggs, who does an admirable job. My favorite track, however, is "Left" which is the only sung track to feature the male vocalist. All of the tracks feature nice melodic hooks and a lush, full sound. It is a nice CD to put on while you're doing something else, to let the back of your brain play around and relax while you focus your attention elsewhere. One more positive: it comes in a nice little "top flap cardboard case" which is much prettier than the standard jewel case.
I can't recommend this CD to everyone, but there is a definite audience for it. It would do pretty well if it got some radio airplay and attracted some more mainstream listeners. I could even visualize a few chart hits. Many progressive rock fans will probably be bored by it, however. As for me, I still have to pick up the latest Radiohead first.