Review - Cold and Bouncy

Artist: The High Llamas

Since their formation, this Irish quintet has tirelessly crafted elaborate versions of an album that isn't even theirs to begin with. Bandleader Sean O'Hagen's obsession with "Smile," Brian Wilson's aborted late-'60s teen-age symphony to God, is leading him to a blissful oblivion. Where 1995's "Gideon Gaye" had an Irish flavor and 1997's "Hawaii" offered a rustic approach, "Cold and Bouncy" incorporates Wilson's arrangements with the electronic percolations picked up from the space-rock band Stereolab.

As The High Llamas get more ambitious, they achieve something analogous to making a computer enlargement of a sharp and colorful photograph: Boundaries stretch and the vision expands, but the material itself becomes increasingly flat. O'Hagen intersperses super-melodic vocal constructions between lush instrumentals for a series of pleasant but largely indistinguishable compositions. It seems more and more like the group long ago exceeded the outer orbits of pop and unknowingly floated off into space.


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