Schnauser - Protein for Everyone [Esoteric Recordings/ Cherry Red Records - 2015]Schnauser are a British rock band with a traditionally British sound, influenced heavily by Stereolab and Pink Floyd, most noticably. "Protein for Everyone" is their 5th album, and it's now been 10 years since their first self released album in 2005.
Like Stereolab before them, the band delivers ear pleasing and intelligent melody, harmony and orchestration. Their songs are layered, ethereal and lounge inflected with pleasant, warm, fuzzed out tube amp tones and arpeggiated, lightly distorted rock organ grinding. The instrumental compositions are clear, concise and tight; almost clinically precise. The tones of the bands instruments meld into a shimmering, perfectly tuned whole. The long, unpredictable chord progressions recall the more cerebral recent music of My Bloody Valentine. Clearly, these people have studied melody and harmony, and their mastery of it makes this music great brain food for the analytical listener.
Stereolab's music has a numbed, detached quality, as if they emotionlessly observed the world from a distance. Their attempts at clever existential lyrics often came out blunt and literal, and caused me to roll my eyes, and I found I enjoyed their music more if I ignored what was being said. This band gives me the same feeling, and I start to wonder if the band's attitude might be just a little too cute, light and ironic to convey any real emotional weight.
It depends on the song. "National Grid" is a haunting, beautiful tune, with long, abstract passages of dreamy, meandering minor chords and light jazz guitar solos back by harmonized choral 'aaahs'. It reminds me of the longer pieces on so many ambitious obscure 70's space rock records, and I feel the band has committed to transporting the listener vast distances, for an intense emotional opus. Both the male and female vocalists give passionate, earnest sounding performances on a song like this.
Other songs are tarnished, at least to my ears, by clumsy attempts at humor or wit. The phrase "Thank for you lending us your ears / be sure to call yourself a dear", for example, is anything-for-a-rhyme syndrone at its absolute worst. A large chunk of "Disposable Outcome", the final 16 minute epic, is devoted to stating repeatedly that this will be the last song on the album. The song as a whole is brimming with riffs and ideas, however, even including a Latin feeling horn section. I can't really dislike it.
Really, if you like Stereolab, you'll likely enjoy this album, as I feel it executes the same idea about as well. Schnauser could be faulted for sounding exactly like Stereolab, but if you ask me, what Stereolab does is quite sophisticated and difficult to do, not to mention a deep, layered and replayable form of music, so I'm happy to get more some of it with this album. Stereolab was always a little bit too cute and ironic for me at times, and so too is this band, but I must admit that if your primary musical realm is romantic indie/dream pop (mine is not), it's very unlikely you'd feel the same way. This is solid stuff, an album that can be played time and time again.Josh Landry