These Eyes Got Balls!
There’s always the inclination to assume that any music that’s earned the label of “pop” is inherently bad. Nine-and-a-half times out of ten, we’re more than justified in our assumptions. From the Monkees to the Jonas Brothers, record labels have always been manufacturing “the next big thing,” and proceeding to cram it down our throats. There are, however, those rare songs that are as well written as they are catchy, as masterful as they are mass appealing. Xray Eyeballs manage to craft songs of the latter sort. For them, the pop sentiment is more of a bad habit than an aim.
Spelndor Squalor is the first huge step forward for Xray Eyeballs evolving into something truly awesome. It’s also a small step backwards as well, as they seem constantly drawn back to the mainstay cliches of the “indie aesthetic.” Throughout Splendor Squalor we see Xray Eyeballs gracefully tread the razor’s edge between familiarity and imitation, with Carly Rabalais and Alison Press’s rhythm section harkening back to Three Imaginary Boys and the nascent days of goth rock. However, unlike most goth rock bands that attempt to carbon copy the Smiths or the Cure, Xray Eyeballs are alarmingly upbeat, incorporating a more aggressive punk rock song structure.
It all comes together best in the form of “Die Little Love (Menthol 100’s version),” which almost sounds like Neu! doing a cover of “Primary,” yet is distinctly Xray Eyeballs. As the albums winds down though, the overblown bridges, cascading synths and sing-song choruses all start to take on the sound of musical posturing, purposely catering to the staples of the Brooklyn hipster scene.
Xray Eyeballs has great expectations, and Splendor Squalor is a perfect exhibit of their obvious talent and ability. They stand at a critical crossroads in their career: do they continue to cultivate their own garden and produce something original and organic, or do they cave to the demands of the hip masses? Hope is high, but only time will ultimately tell.