steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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info opinion


"Blowing the Clambake / Soundtrack to Disguise the Lemon" CD

Mayhaps Records

Genre: indie rock

Wichita, KS

Dec 27, 2008

From Wichita, Kansas came Scenery, and into Wichita, Kansas they disappeared. Fortunately, they left behind two albums, and these have finally been issued on this hefty disc courtesy of the charming Mayhaps label. This impressive release collects the recording sessions for Blowing the Clambake and Soundtrack to Disguise the Lemon, documenting the full history of an obscure band that kicks quite a bit of ass.

Blowing the Clambake was recorded in 2003 and revels in epic, Radiohead-inspired indie rock. These songs have an Arcade Fire-esque grandiosity to them, weaving propulsive guitar shimmers into warmly melodic songs. The sheer masses of sound occasionally seem disorganized in all their multi-leveled texture, but the overall effect is remarkably engaging. "You Have a Face for a T.V. Commercial" draws you in by way of its glorious enthusiasm, leading the way for highlights like chiming "First One, First Two" and momentous "See/Saw Through the Window." Raw, epic indie rock is the name of the game, and while it is slightly rough around the edges, this is remarkably complex and multifaceted stuff in the end. The incorporation of keyboards and strings into the equation, meanwhile, makes for a nice touch.

Recorded a year later, Soundtrack to Disguise the Lemon has been mastered at a lower volume than Blowing the Clambake. All quibbles aside, it takes the Scenery sound even further. This time sandwiching their main songs between brief, atmospheric interludes, the band has instilled in their music a heightened compositional complexity. "Magic Shoes" exudes a mid-nineties indie rock vibe paired with a more contemporary keyboard glare, while "Happy Socks" is a hazy experience replete with a couple of monster guitar solos. Soundtrack to Disguise is less immediate than the band's first outing, but it somehow feels like a logical progression for the band. The increased angularity of their compositions brings to mind work by Hurl, Taking Pictures, and A Minor Forest. Still, there is something significantly modern to their work, despite it already being five years old.

When you put two albums onto one disc, you're faced with two possibilities. Either you end up with good value, or you've produced a disc that goes on way too long and annoys the shit out of everyone. Fortunately, Scenery's first and last record can be slotted under the former case, not in the same sense as a discounted K-Tel compilation, but rather as an impressive selection of songs that illuminates the progression of a short-lived but worthwhile local act.

N.B. If this double-album doesn't quench your musical thirst, three out of Scenery's four members have carried on as Paper Airplanes, a considerably higher-profile affair that might be worth a look.

scenery's myspace


Matt Shimmer

[Vitals: 15 tracks, distributed by the label, released 2008]