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Other Victorians

Wednesday, Apr 28 2004
It's often comforting when an album delves into our record-collection subconscious, and Evening's Other Victorians is one that leaves listeners pleasantly haunted by their musical pasts. It dredges up fond memories of old favorites -- say, Depeche Mode or OK Computer-era Radiohead -- and even elicits nostalgia for embarrassing youthful infatuations like emo and grunge. Such reminders make the album a bit tiresome after too many listens, but Other Victorians is nevertheless a surprisingly strong debut from a little-known bunch of locals.

On the surface, the music of this San Francisco quintet is cloaked in dark drone, but beneath that a hidden energy steals in and out of the shadows. That's because nearly every instrument Evening employs seems to vie for rhythmic dominance, whether it's a marching bass line battling dance-y electronic effects on "Being Is Automatic" or deep rhythm guitars trying to quash the quavering lead lines throughout.

The effect is simultaneously measured and chaotic, not unlike footfalls pounding down a sidewalk after dark. The slow-building entrance to "Darmstadt" mixes a Bowie-esque piano ditty into a tangle of spooky guitars. And while much of the record is reminiscent of Radiohead -- with postmodern gripes and occasional spacecraft references -- "Run Memory" is the most obvious homage, with twinkling robotic sounds, driving drums, and lines like "The sky's about to split" and "The future's looking bright synthetically."

But often, Other Victorians loses its of-the-moment edge and drifts too far into raucous early-'90s melodrama, overdosing on emphatic piano bangs and the pained delivery of phrases like "Strung out on happiness." In fact, the lyrics are the weakest aspect here: fragments of seemingly complex thoughts that really don't mean much when taken together. But the opposite can be said of the instrumental elements, which would be sparse as solos but combined create an enticing whole.

About The Author

Nancy Einhart


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