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Citizens Here and Abroad 

Ghosts of Tables and Chairs

Wednesday, Jan 7 2004
The ghastly, alarmlike guitar pattern that opens "The Voices," the first song on San Francisco quartet Citizens Here and Abroad's Ghosts of Tables and Chairs, is a good indication of the urgency that characterizes the record's 10 songs. It's an urgency that recalls overcast Sundays at home, fidgeting and restless, hoping for something you can't place a finger on, a crush or an obsession perhaps. Like its nine siblings, the song progresses through thoughts and moods, refrainless; each musical and lyrical pattern is purposeful and confident, birthing new parts that resemble their antecedents, but certainly with agendas of their own.

When indie bands disregard traditional song structure, which is the case on most of Ghosts, the results are often strained, but this isn't the case here. It actually takes a few listens to realize that something different is going on. On certain songs that employ choruses (see "Appearances"), they're not really even that, but rather echoes of a previous part, with lyrics repeated but electric guitars and building drums pushing toward a new idea altogether. Other songs ignore rock tradition completely, opting for a steady progression of chords that spends the whole tune seeking fruition, or stringing together a variety of guitar riffs with clever transitions.

The group is as methodical in its denial of the verse-chorus-verse aesthetic as it is diverse in its influences. Singers Adrienne Robillard and Chris Groves' consistent boy/girl vocal harmonies recall the California rock of the late '60s, while contemporary bands, everyone from Sonic Youth to Stereolab, underpin the group's instrumental phrasing and melodies, its upbeat rhythms and major- to minor-key transitions.

The results of a verbose moniker can go either way. Poorly executed songwriting in tandem with a forced band name can often translate into shit. But, like that of a group such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Citizens' weighty self-dubbing is more than validated by the music it creates on Ghosts.

About The Author

Abigail Clouseau


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