Like a Stuntman: Fresh Air is Not the Worst Thing in Town
Highpoint Lowlife

Fresh on the heels of the 7-inch Reduce EP, Like A Stuntman packs an exhausting amount of musical detail into eleven songs on its 35-minute, full-length debut Fresh Air Is Not The Worst Thing In Town. In contrast to Highpoint Lowlife's predominantly electronic offerings, the Frankfurt quartet's sound is off-kilter, experimental noise-pop that's equal parts synths, drums, and guitars. There's a lo-fi, home-made feel to the album (voices and count-ins are sometimes audible) that complements the band's occasionally rough instrumental attack and indie-pop sensibility; vocals, for example, are often loosely, even distractedly drawled throughout.

The material is consistently strong, with the band demonstrating a gift for punchy arrangements and infectious melodies; curiously, many of the latter suggest a carnival flavour (“Park The Trailer In The Park,” “Let's Talk About Horses,” “Reduce”) which further distinguishes the group's indie-electronic sound. The bold stuttering overture “We're Not In Brazil” commences the set with the avant-pop outing “Spain Is OK” the only other song more mercurial. A forceful weave of guitar buzz introduces “Kingkongs,” one of the most powerful tracks, before the song ventures into a glammier pop zone of distorted vocals, wayward electronics, and martial drum clatter. And, though already heard on the band's earlier single, “Reduce” sounds as strong in this context, the band pounding out a powerful funk broil that escalates to increasingly hallucinatory levels as multiple layers of voices (“one second or less”) interweave in mantra-like manner. The group's softer side is captured on “I Was Shocked And You Were Shocked” and “Here Is Hell” though in both cases the songs eventually morph from quieter beginnings into intense, clattering codas, suggesting the band's happiest when inhabiting the noisier end of the spectrum. A lilting shuffle of rubbery synth wavers, lush horns, and acoustic guitars in “They're Yellow And So Are Mine” provides stylistic contrast, while the song's lyrics reveal a humorous bent that's refreshing (“When I first met you with your shiny happy teeth …”). The album hardly ends on a mellow note, however, as proven by the New Order bass lines and crushing guitars that inflame the noisy outro “All Your Magazines.”

Often, the physical fact of an EP's brevity helps a band leave a powerful impression with that same group faltering when challenged to sustain an equal level of quality and energy over the course of a full album. While, admittedly, by CD standards Fresh Air is Not the Worst Thing in Town qualifies as more of a mini-disc than a full-fledged full-length, there's no diminishment in quality from the EP to the album; it's the same rabid Like A Stuntman sound but just a greater helping of it.

May 2005