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Estrogen Highs - Irrelevant Future

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Artist: Estrogen Highs

Album: Irrelevant Future

Label: Trouble in Mind

Review date: Sep. 11, 2012

Estrogen Highs makes cheerfully messy, sloppy garage pop, alternately strung out and loose like The Clean at its least premediated, and punching and popping with punk-ish energy a la Tyvek or Nodzzz. The band, which hails from the townie end of New Haven, Conn., makes a modest artform out of disintegration, its shout-along choruses dissolving into clouds of fuzz.

A bit less structured, even, than the slackest, slyest pop deconstructionists — I’m thinking The Beets and maybe Times New Viking — Estrogen Highs works mostly at the level of vibe and aura. You’ll find a radiant jangle here, a scrabbly racket of drums there, an unhurried, mostly untuneful approach to singing everywhere, but not much in the way of songs you can hum in the shower.

You could think of Irrelevant Future as a rubber band, now loosened to barely audible vibration, now coiled up and twisted into something like dramatic tension. Oddly, the loosest-jointed, least achievement-oriented cuts — “Status Quo (Oh No)” or “The World Is Flat” — have a certain luminous charm, their detuned strumming, their slushy cymbal beats, their spiky, half-considered guitar riffs, attaining a disheveled kind of beauty-through-the-murk.

Faster, more aggressive songs — “It Has to Rhyme” and “Temporary Spaces” — cohere a little better, the former in a headlong, scrambling rush, the latter in a stop-start riff that clears the air. Both are rambunctious in a puppyish, falling-over-oneself kind of way, the instrumental sharpness blurred by the singer’s slack-jawed, Pavement-esque drawl.

No one in Estrogen Highs is going to win any contests for either instrumental or vocal skill, but they’re definitely better players than singers. “I Saw Light,” late in the album, has some of the disc’s best guitar playing, a liquid jangling foundation like early R.E.M. under a rambling, searching lead. The singing, though, aims at either unison or harmonies (hard to tell which) and misses both. Even by the standards of strung out pop, it’s distracting.

Irrelevant Future is not very precisely recorded, layering another layer of uncertainty onto its wavery, half-glimpsed tunes. This is OK. You don’t want records like this to be super clean. You want a certain amount of hiss and smudge to cling to the tunes, to make them seem more real, more susceptible, more human. Estrogen Highs has all the roughhousing vulnerability you could ask from a band like this, all the primitive bash-and-clatter romanticism that you could wish. Next time, let’s hope they find a few memorable tunes and, perhaps, a voice to sing them credibly.

By Jennifer Kelly

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