Reviewed by: Ziggy Merritt
The mixture of lo-fi and garage rock is analogous to chocolate and peanut butter. It just works. What about lo-fi mixed with a blend of garage rock, post-punk, and the soundtrack to a Spaghetti Western? You’ll find on the first bite that the flavors overwhelm each other, gifting you a grimace of confusion as you wonder where in this recipe did things turn sour? Imaginary People’s debut album, Dead Letterbox, works in a similar fashion much to its unfortunate detriment.
Starting off on the first track, “Simple Life”, I was introduced to that same Spaghetti Western theme along with a sound that reminded me greatly of something I might have expected Editors to churn out in one of their earlier albums. But then the same thing happened with the next track and the track after that. All featured a similar, even monotonous blend of rambling guitar, steady, rhythmic drumming and overwhelmed vocals as they ventured on and on. I might not have had much issue with this had it not been for the obnoxious length of each individual track, most of which ventured somewhere past four minutes in length. Normally I would never criticize the length of anything unless I happened to be reviewing Yes’ Tales from Topographic Oceans, yet the noted monotony works against the composition of Dead Letterbox. There’s nothing of distinction to take away, especially where the same formula is repeated time and time again.
This extends further to “Fever Nation” and “Miles”, both within the latter half of the album. In other instances, monotony is instead replaced with a disharmonious blend of sound, such as can be heard on “Gingerbread Girl.” Here the piano and guitar lines try to connect but instead bounce off of each other, making the following sonic experience a touch dreadful. Additionally, “Miles” does something similar as it tries to crescendo into a high pitch of organ and guitar, none of which succeed in delivering anything pleasant.
All this negativity aside, there are occasions where Dead Letterbox succeeds at offering up a gem or two. The mid-album treat of “Agata” is simple in composition and one of few occasions where the vocals don’t find themselves overwhelmed by a burdensome guitar riff. Sweet, brief glissandos glitter alongside a tuneful melody, one that’s a sharp departure from the display of masculinity that is so becoming of Dead Letterbox. To a lesser extent, “Stella” does something similar, yet quietly finishes the bold strokes of the album. Both eschew a dreamy quality that is quite unlike anything present. They show promise for a band in search of a unified voice.
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