March 17, 2003

Spiraling 'Transmitter'

Transmitter is a record that's quietly won me over. Okay, it hasn't quietly won me over. It's quite loudly won me over. It's very rare for me to be sucker-punched by a pop record from listen numero uno, but Spiraling is special. Damn special. Tom Brislin's a brilliant songwriter, and in the era where songwriting is becoming less important, but he's got skills, and it SHOWS.

See, Brislin's talent is directly proportional to his experience. Though you wouldn't know it by listening, he was a sideman for Meat Loaf, and then got a dream gig playing keboards with a band he loved, Yes. As you can imagine, he'd probably have to be damn good to be playing "Owner of a Lonely Heart" or "Love Will Find A Way," and that experience only made him BETTER. Transmitter synth-pop is really more along the lines of Yes side-project the Buggles than with the 70s rockers, though--so don't be scared.

Transmitter kicks off with "The Connection," a keyboard-driven rock that sounds like late-90s Alternative rock, and it's pretty damn good, too. The next two numbers, "The Girl On Top (Of The Piano)" and "(I Don't Want To) Grow Up" are nice, but their energy isn't quite as high as the beginning number. Don't worry--there's a pleasant surprise coming, though, when you reach track four--and it's one that will stay with you on subsequent listens, too.

"This Is the Road" shows you exactly who Brislin's main influence is--XTC. Once you realize this, the album changes. Your opinion of it changes. You'll not be able to escape just HOW MUCH Brislin sounds like Andy Partridge. In fact, Spiraling sound like what XTC would have sounded like had they started in 1987 instead of 1977. If you're not convinced by "This Is The Road," just wait--"Transmitter" is PURE Partridge. In fact, I even checked to make sure that it wasn't a cover. It wasn't.

The rest of Transmitter continues in the same vein, and it's an utterly pleasant listen. If you're wanting to dance around the room, Transmitter will probably make you want to chill out and think. If you're wanting to take it easy and mellow out, it might just make you break out in unapologetic bedroom dancing. Now that we are soon to be living in a world without the Dismemberment Plan, it's good to know that there's going to be a band that will fill in that void. Try not to think about the fact that this is their debut album--the anticipation for their next album might just kill you.

--Joseph Kyle

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