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Parts & Labor - Receivers

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Artist: Parts & Labor

Album: Receivers

Label: Jagjaguwar

Review date: Jan. 5, 2009

Pretension in the pursuit of awesomeness is no vice. And humility in defense of boredom is no virtue. Receivers is the Brooklyn post-hardcore outfit Parts & Labor’s big nerd-out, full of avalanche noise, cryptic foreboding and long-ass songs. Let someone else decide if they’ve gotten too big for their britches. This full-size racket holds its own.

Before they hit “record,” P&L were primed for either failure or breakthrough. Drummer Christopher Weingarten, whose frenetic pseudo-chaos anchored the band’s earlier records and effectively defined its aesthetic, up and split. The more precise but less distinctive Joseph Wong replaced him. P&L set up a hotline and invited fans to phone in snatches of noise, many of which are absorbed on Receivers. From go, the album promised to blow minds, provoke giggles, or both.

Receivers is many things, but it ain’t a giggler. Always on the serious side lyrically, Parts & Labor here shifts fully into impressionistic, long-winded social commentary. (“Beware behold the bliss of the believer / Assured insured and righteous to the bone / The rapt indentured servant and retriever / So blessed invests in hope I’ve never known.” Or howzabout “Unsustainable lies build asphalt testaments / Isolated withdrawn galvanized / Guzzled desert teats a black-milk precedent / We crow we cry we showed we sighed… We won’t rely on what’s conveniently supplied.” I mean, a lot of us listened to Bad Religion in high school…)

But it’s not ridiculous, because it works. The sour notes and electro-screech don’t sound cheeky anymore; they sound essential. New guitarist Sarah Lipstate ups the melodic ante, which provides greater collateral for the wash of dissonance from the seamless samples and from Dan Friel, the Lee Ranaldo of electronics that sound like bagpipes.

The songs are slower and more complex. Only one stays under four minutes, and some break seven. In harmony with the high-fallutin’ lyrics, the band sounds largely de-quirked. So Receivers sounds “big,” does it? How big? It features a sax, a singing saw and some real bagpipes, and they’re barely noticeable.

Having exhausted the Husker Du catalog, Parts & Labor reimagines the best of ‘70s psych-funk-prog, like Trans Am without the smirk or Refused without the punk dogmatism. In the process, they generate several thrilling epics (“Satellites”), a couple of languid dirges (“Mount Misery”) and at least one obvious breakout hit (“Nowheres Nigh”). They make no secret of their ambition. And they pretty much live up to it. And it’s an awesome thing to hear.

By Emerson Dameron

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