Sound Team: Movie Monster

Sound Team
Movie Monster

While indie rock bands these days only seem to break via the blogosphere and Myspace profiles, Austin's Sound Team leapfrogged into a major label deal with a more old-school approach: dubbing cassettes and silk-screening covers in their Big Orange Studio. Such early outings focused on the four-track experiments of guitarist Matt Oliver and bassist Bill Baird, which were clever yet haphazard, like some half-baked pot brownies made by Beck and Ween. As the band became more of a live entity, recruiting Baird's younger brother and three more members, their songwriting focus became sharper, more resolute. Opening for such likeminded pop craftsmen as Spoon, the Walkmen, and the Arcade Fire honed their edge, with Oliver taking a cue from Walkmen frontman Hamilton Leithauser's raspy and strained vocals.

Despite the newly expanded lineup, the end results of Movie Monster are taut, economical, adroit. The guitars of Oliver and Sam Sanford (full disclosure: the latter played in a noise ensemble with this author a decade ago) are terse and irascible, at times jagged, a tone exemplified best on "Shattered Glass" and "Your Eyes Are Liars." The band is extroverted with their pop, but they also lean toward more ambient textures, with little noises teeming within their hooks. They draw heavily from Bowie's Eno-produced albums, like Low, their banks of Rhodes, Moog, and Wurlitzer wiggling amid the barbed guitars and pulsing rhythms. Movie Monster's centerpiece is "TV Torso," six-plus minutes of relentless, ragged drive that juxtaposes Neu!'s motorik beat with the hum of Texas highways. Synths writhe and guitars are at once atomized and explosive. Epic and anthemic, at times Sound Team appear capable of one day attaining the rock grandeur of yet another album Eno helped produce—U2's The Joshua Tree.