IF YOU HEARD the latest Sebadoh album and wondered where all the snaggy two-guitar, two-string hooks went, they seem to have ended up on Marmoset's Today It's You. As did all of Guided by Voices' oops-gotta-run fade-outs, and more than a few of Pavement's used winks. In other words, what we have here is a sect that worships the holy trinity of indiedom circa five years ago.
Which is not to call Marmoset derivative--rather, call them willingly indebted. They are one of those groups that demonstrate such an obviously genuine love for their influences that in their hands homages become not rip-offs, but ways of expressing uniqueness through an aggregate of tastes--something akin to a teen bedroom plastered with posters or piled with comics. I don't know if the members of this Indiana band are teenagers (I doubt it very much), but their new album is such an emphatic improvement upon their debut, the murky Hidden Forbidden, that it would be fair to say they're enjoying an adolescent growth spurt.
Today It's You is a collage of delightful, quirky fragments recalling, yes, the groups named above. On balance, though, it actually sounds more like Midwestern new-wave homesteaders Get Smart and the Embarrassment. Employing taut, fidgety arrangements built on a 4/4 beat that's sturdy as a flatbed Ford, along with nasal Hoosier-accented vocals that straddle deadpan sophistication and self-conscious awkwardness, Marmoset magically turns landlocked jadedness into restless enthusiasm.
It must be admitted that there are fewer ideas here than there are tracks. "Laugh Giraffe" and "Speakers" are so blatantly similar in their jerky two-step that the band might just as well have spliced them together. But songs like "Peace in the Valley" and "A Prayer for Elaine" are near-perfect bursts of Mid-American adenoidal urgency, so corny they pop. And if they end well before the egg timer dings, that just means they provide the ideal opportunity for a couple of furtive pogos before Mom opens the bedroom door.
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