Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Plastic Constellations / Crusades / Rating: 7.8

"Crusades corrects some of Mazatlan's most compelling failings, like its done-on-the-cheap warmth or its penchant for sloppy genre-hopping."

And in one corner is Sam Ubl weighing in on Plastic Constellations and in the opposing corner is.... oh, Sam Ubl again. I love the consistency of having the same PFM writer over time review a band’s catalog as it grows but at the same time it’s interesting when a writer seemingly ignores their earlier judgment and previous ratings. It isn't exactly shadowboxing but here is a ring side look at the Sam- V -Sam anyhow.

-Sam Ubl, January 25, 2006 ( The modern Sam)

PFM says: "Here's a band that lives and dies by anthemic riffs, yet understands perfectly the hollowness of their gestures. Even (or especially) Crusades' best licks have difficulty connecting with their rank-and-file underpinnings."

"Riff" and "lick" used in the same paragraph makes me feel icky on the inside but personal issues with word associations aside, I began to wonder what Sam thought about PC’s style and influences in his initial review of the band. If Crusades corrects their first record’s "most compelling failings" why did the old record out rate the new one?

The Plastic ConstellationsMazatlan[2024; 2004]Rating: 8.5

Sam Ubl, June 29th, 2004 (A younger Sam)

PFM says: “Mazatlan runs the gamut of post-punk influences, from elder heroes Sonic Youth and Fugazi to latter-day stars like Les Savy Fav and Slint. But what makes these songs truly intriguing is The Plastic Constellations' eager exploration of odd tunings and contrasting, often atonal guitar harmonies.”


“In fact, The Plastic Constellations make a valiant effort to resurrect that sadly neglected element of effective, sophisticated pop music, bearing a bucketful of robust enjoinders.”

Rereading Sam’s first review I get the idea that Mazatlan bordered on some kind of greatness. There is nary a shortcoming in site according this first review.

Check out this glowing bit:
PFM says: "The Plastic Constellations aren't merely a strong outfit for their respective niche, but a mature, well-coordinated group that show great talent and even greater potential. The songs on Mazatlan resemble something conceptualized in a budding musician's hotwired brain-- virtuosity and communication between musicians being, naturally, no object-- but which so rarely get penned for the intensive and fleeting nature of the young imagination. Remarkably, the record is impressively cohesive, despite a couple questionable instances of quasi-rapping ("Movement Momentum", "Vicious Devotion") and a feeling of persistent breathlessness from the breakneck tempos."

Sam IS right about the vocal timing bordering on “quasi-rap” but my ears translate this into early Avail and now I can’t get Avail’s “Connection” out of my head.

“No one turned your rally of peace into a, into a…”

This classic hardcore vocal technique is incredibly dressed up in a crisp pop uniform by Plastic Constellations and the more I listen to Crusades the more I also hear something more akin to
melody savvy Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters. Come to think of it with Rye Coalition having been recently produced by Grohl, PC sound like the new less-emo more ROCK Rye if singer Ralph C. could carry a tune. (Don’t get me wrong, I love Rye but Ralph has his vocal limitations.)

Modern day Sam says:

“But conviction and technical certainty enable Plastic Constellations to play off, as a kind of no-regrets transient indulgence, the chiffon rapture of even their most blustery lines”

I wanted to include this Sam line because it sure reads pretty. It doesn’t mean anything to my brain at all but it satisfies the girl in me who loves pure silk and Winnie the Pooh. I will forever associate the word blustery with AA Milne stories of Christopher Robin and his stuffed friends.

Back to Modern Sam:

“Anyway, rarely do albums come this taut anymore-- 35 minutes, no acoustic pussyfooting or tortoise-tempo sensitive moments.”

It may be "taut" but whatever Crusades corrects from Mazatlan isn’t enough to earn the band a higher rating.

I don’t hear a magnificent shift in the bands playing style at all. I hear a logical progression that will neither shock or offend, a movin’ on up deluxe apartment in the sky production value improvement , but still a band who makes me want to play my old Avail records rather than listen to their 2000 something brand of an age old rock formula.

Plastic Constellations do it...ROCK! that is decidedly well but they rate at slightly above average 7. 5 to this old fan of Dixie.