Release Date: January 17, 2012
Record Label: Photo Finish
The Flaming Lips once famously declared that all the punk rockers were taking acid. Perhaps the psych-rock outfit had supplied it back in the 90s. These days, though, it seems that all the punks are smoking dope, down on the farm, getting more in touch with their roots.
That's the case anyway for Anthony Green, frontman of radio-friendly punk outfit Circa Survive (whose name is about as bad as the album artwork). Green's second album Beautiful Things is a hodge podge of folky riffs and om-pa-pa rhythm with a touch of distortion thrown in for good measure. The eclectic mix is lead by the free form opener "If I Don't Sing," where Green's clear vocals are enclosed with bombastic instrumentation a screeching choir and a jumble of hard edged guitars. The lassie faire approach places Green within the continuum somewhere between early Blitzen Trapper, Akon/Family, and Ariel Pink. The semi-druggy jubilance of "Do It Right" is balanced by the reggae beat of "When I'm on Pills," whose chorus creeks with staccato keyboard lines. Meanwhile, "Get Yours While You Can" rehashes a Pixies riff to great effect.
This more is more approach fits Green's songs more than when he lets the tracks slip down to simplicity as on the saccharine "Lullaby." This is undoubtedly due to the strength of Green's vocals whose clairvoyance cuts with ease. "Big Mistake" soars with Green's vocals over a slide guitar riff before lapsing into a steady rhythm of self-disgust. Similarly "James' Song" -- a loving ode from father to son -- works through the intensely personal perspective.
Indeed, the title of the album seems to refer to Green's fascination here. There are many beautiful things on this record. Perhaps the problem is that with all these beautiful things there seems to be a loss of elegance. The sweetness of "Love You No Matter What," for example gets undercut by an annoying rhythm track. It may be the point (as Green makes reference to the woman "shitting spiders"), but the irony gets lost. There's no doubt that Green has a plentiful musical palate, but the record works best as on "James' Song" when the personal is intensely tied to the music. Or when on "Blood Song" Green intones "she was only 20 but she fucked like 33" the punkish lyrics become transposed through the instrumentation. Green's album seems to fit within the new album paradigm -- losing the necessary ties of story or concept, as Green shows here, what you love is who you are. And the closer he is, the more it works.