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Four-letter Words

Wednesday, Aug 6 2003
There comes a point in every boy's life when he must grow up. No longer can he solely utilize Led Zeppelin IV or Modest Mouse's Lonesome Crowded West as the soundtrack to fuck to. Eventually he needs something more mature, more sensitive -- a record that will prove that he can last longer than a Minutemen tune. This is the time to embrace the Strum und Drone of instrumental groups like Continental, which just released its sophomore record, Four-letter Words.

While lube might not be the first thing you reach for after putting on Four-letter Words (a bong or a walking stick might seem equally appropriate) the local quintet's latest album features the kind of ethereal, swirling music perfect for languid lovemaking. Though the group's eponymous 2000 debut was all over the map -- including everything from feedback vamps to sax-and-bass ambient funk -- Continental's new numbers hit a breezy middle ground, winding Matt Holt's and Brent Kimble's elegant guitar riffs through Gabriel Coan's exotic, jazz-based percussion and Mike Eul's ruminative keyboard parts. (Third guitarist Craig Escalante joined after the recording was finished.) Yes, this kind of thing has been done before: People have been screwing to the post-rock sounds of Tortoise since 1996. But that watershed band has always been more about brains than balls, whereas Continental's music sends you on a journey to the center of mind and body.

In fact, Four-letter Words has more in common with classic slowcore acts like Low and Bedhead, in that there's genuine emotion seeping up through the smarts. "Leonid" may start out with ear-catching gamelanlike tones and a stuttering drum/ bass figure, but over time its parts smear together in a melancholy evocation of summer's end. Of course, you may not like sadness in your sex life; that's why there's "Pacific Sprawl," with delicate guitar work that escalates into rapid riffing, and "The Regrettable Consequences of Our Well-Worn Blinders," with its slow-building, high-arcing climax. And since Four-letter Words has an absence of dialogue (save for the closing "This Empty Palace"), you can feel free to make up your own dirty talk. How thoughtful.

About The Author

Dan Strachota


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