Great Salesmanship, Middling Product
Rising parallel with fellow Atlantans The Black Lips, The Selmanaires play the same brand of hedonistic rock from a much tidier, more organized garage. They’re the restrained yin to the Lips’ rowdy yang, but that only got them so far on their spotty debut Here Come the Selmanaires. It does them fewer favors on their follow-up The Air Salesmen, which finds them attempting to step out from their counterparts’ shadow and embrace more varied and modern influences. Alas, they only find themselves enveloped in more, albeit attractive, shadows in its place.
You can’t blame the band for trying new things, particularly when their musicianship is so strong. Things actually get off to a fairly strong start with the cocky gallop of “Broken Mirrors in the Mud,” arguably the group’s strongest song to date. It’s followed by the sinuous strut of “Nite Beat,” which manages to consolidate Franz Ferdinand’s past strengths better than anything on their last album. They even throw in a tasteful if obvious melodic nod to David Bowie on “Verdigris Intrigue,” whose slightly psychedelic riff is a dead ringer for “Boys Keep Swinging.”
Settling on any one of the styles in this strong opening trio could have done The Selmanaires some serious good. Instead, they opt to meander between them for the remainder of The Air Salesmen, never deciding on an overarching sound and thus losing any semblance of individual identity among their admittedly impressive inspirations. They play these songs and styles very well, mind you, but so can any studio musician who’s heard the bands that played them first.
The Selmanaires even try to backpedal to the relatively reckless abandon of their prior work with the rougher, tougher “Just to Get Yr Love,” but its lack of consistency with the rest of the songs only betrays more indecision, regardless of how rocking the performance is. By the time the rustling closer “Long Road” tumbleweeds out of the ears, all listeners will be left thinking is that the titular path may not have been so long had the band not insisted on circling around the map so many times.