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The Velvet Teen 

Cum Laude

Wednesday, Jul 26 2006
Cum Laude finds Petaluma trio the Velvet Teen attempting the same stylistic 180 it pulled by following up serrated pop stunner Out of the Fierce Parade (2002) with the completely guitarless, piano-driven concept record Elysium (2004). The Iron Chef surprise ingredient this time is synthesizers — and 'tis a bummer. The band's newfound love of electronics produces little more than a skittery videogame flourish here, a Postal Serviceable melody there, and maudlin songs like "Noi Boi" that sound like Human League B-sides. Frontman (and co-producer, along with his brother, Ephriam) Judah Nagler has coated his vocals in something straight from the cabinet of Dr. Reznor: In place of his beautifully strained falsetto we get a chalky screech. Mostly Cum Laude is a mess. The act's demonstrated talent for crafting note-perfect arrangements — whether grandiose or succinct — is here obscured by icky burbles and an impatient need for speed, potentially decent songs railroaded by an urge to clutter. That urge is neither formally nor functionally successful; it's just misguided.

About The Author

Garrett Kamps


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