For a pop band, Athens, Georgia's Glands are exceptionally complex, offering a musical structure and presentation that has more directions than the assembly manual for a Chinese bicycle. With a Beatlesque naïveté, Big Star eyes, and a crafty wit that nods to Andy Partridge, Robyn Hitchcock, and Todd Rundgren, the Glands bring a distinctly American spin to their own Britpop recipe on their eponymous sophomore release. Frontman Ross Shapiro writes in every possible style, sings in a brittle and vulnerable voice, plays impossibly inventive guitar, and leads his band of merry men through a maze of swirling brilliance that shifts effortlessly from Beck-influenced lo-fi funk pop ("Livin' Was Easy," "Fortress") to piano swing ("Swim"), brooding emo-pop ("Mayflower"), and chugging indie rock goofiness ("Lovetown," "I Can See My House From Here").
The truly amazing aspect of the Glands' body of work is that it all meshes together seamlessly, as disparate as each song sounds from the others around it. The band's arrangements are challenging, its sound is a shimmering homage to all of the above and much more, and it has accomplished more growth between its debut, 1997's Double Thriller, and The Glands than most bands manage in a career. The Glands are a veritable encyclopedia of pop history minutiae, and the ingenuity with which they interpret, translate, and splice their influences is nothing short of exhilarating.
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