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The Blow - Poor Aim: Love Songs

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Artist: The Blow

Album: Poor Aim: Love Songs

Label: States Rights

Review date: Nov. 22, 2004

Normally a comparison between the latest teen pop sensation and a DIY diva like The Blow would be utter nonsense. A gap wider than the distance between Olympia and L.A. lies between not only the style of music involved, but also the artists’ respective approaches, aesthetics and audiences. Therefore, it’s more than curious when a songstress tries to assert herself on the other side of the divide, and this mostly occurs in one direction, from the mainstream to the indie. That is, it’s common for the Avrils to decry the Britneys, flaunting songwriting or producing credit to get away from the stereotype of corporate canned talent. Rarely does it cross the other way without the kids crying “sell out.” However, on Khaela Maricich’s latest EP as The Blow, Poor Aim: Love Songs, she teams up with Jona Bechtolt to shoot at a much larger audience. Or at least at an audience willing to smile ironically and dance their hearts away.

The EP is the first in the Pregnancy Series from States Rights Records and Slender Means Society, which formalizes the naturally occurring phenomenon in indie music of collaboration: Two similarly-minded of indie status are put together in a recording studio to musically mate. And the offspring, maternally named in this case as a record by The Blow, is more mature than Maricich’s previous recordings. Last year’s The Concussive Caress featured Maricich at the peak of her game, but also wildly uneven in song production and quality, ranging from the perfectly conceived “How Naked Are We Gonna Get?” and “What Tom Said About the Girls” to the cluttering filler snippets and half-hearted delivery of “Night Full of Open Eyes” and “Warriors’ Hearts.” If anything, Maricich proved that she wasn’t ready for a full-length album. Not so on Poor Aim: With seven tightly-crafted dance-pop songs that wax mainstream and even R&B, she fills the EP to its brim.

Two numbers styled as reggae grooves open and close the disc, the anthem to dating insecurity “Hey Boy” being a shy and powerful introduction to The Blow’s passive-aggressive persona. “The Sky Opened Wide Like the Tide,” while characteristically titled for The Blow, is a dance-pop number par excellance in the vein of The Postal Service, and “Hock It” could potentially be confused with an Ashlee or Beyonce hit with its stuttering hip-hop beat and seductively slick vocals. It becomes immediately clear on these “mainstream” hits that it’s not a well-groomed suit writing the lyrics, but Bechtolt nails the echo of Clear Channel radio production to a degree that could fool anyone not paying attention. One certainly hopes that people do pay attention to this record: “The Sky…” is without doubt one of pop’s hottest singles of the year, budget or distribution notwithstanding. It’s not clear how Maricich and Bechtolt want these efforts to be read, either as satire or appropriation or something else entirely. In any case, the collaboration works to improve on both of their solo work, a fact that promises much for future releases in the Pregnancy Series.

By Joel Calahan

Other Reviews of The Blow

The Concussive Caress

Paper Television

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Find out more about States Rights

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