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For their third album, Seattle indiepopsters Math And Physics Club have decided to broaden their horizons just a little bit more and try to encompass a wider range of influences to their fey jangle, and they waste no time in letting you know. Imagine if Paul Simon had taken a detour on his way back from recording part of 'Graceland' in South Africa, stopping off in the UK and picking up a copy of that week's NME. Attached to it he may have found a tape called 'C86' (the same year his acclaimed Afrobeat-fusion album was released), and imagine if that tape became as much of an influence as Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Boyoyo Boys. The result may have turned out a little like the lovely 'We Won't Keep Secrets'.
The more exotic infliction doesn't end there. 'Tied To A Stone' even manages to incorporate a line from 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight' and raises a smile instead of a cringe. Long-term fans need not worry, the band (who will be celebrating a decade together next year) haven't strayed far from the music we know and love, they've simply freshened things up and added a new twist; a mild flavour, certainly nothing overpowering. That said, it's a brave move, as deviating even a touch from what some groups do best can result in a bit of a mess, but this trio are experienced and confident enough to get the balance just right. The brand of guitar-pop that Math And Physics Club make has usually been slightly less lush in its arrangements than many other practitioners, but that sparseness is all part of their individuality, and sometimes the intricacy of the instrumentation and the strength of the songcraft means it's not even as issue. Stand-outs such as 'We're Not Lost' or the simplistic but melodic lament 'My Crooked Arms' you really wouldn't want any other way, especially given the lachrymose strings of the latter. Tender closer 'Road Carry Me Home' is another great example of how well they make the very most of a small number of instruments and some carefully thought-out lyrics.
Other influences come into play at various points: 'Long Drag' may have taken a little inspiration from Shirley Ellis' 'The Clapping Song', but without the novelty factor and with an impressive chorus; there's a plodding country vibe about 'We Didn't Come From Anyone' ("I'm better in this bar room than a highway on my own, another drink won't mend these broken bones") and again it's perfectly mastered; following it immediately is 'I Know It's Over' which could be a Housemartins cover and is flooded with harmonica and bare-bones guitar, bass and drums. Heartbreak and disappointment are never far away on 'Our Hearts Beat Out Loud', but the subject matter never brings the album down, offering a more reflective approach than one of misery. This means that 'Thank God I Met You' is the kind of song whose lyrics make you stop and listen, so then you find that in the end everything is OK. "Another sad song to sing..." sums up this side to the album. As the opening line to the most outright and upbeat pop song here, 'That's What Love Is', it encapsulates the contrast perfectly and adds more proof (not that it was needed) that both lyrically and musically Math And Physics Club are currently right on top of their game and brimming with confidence.
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