October 21, 2003

Fort Lauderdale "Pretty Monster"

I have to give British musicians credit; it seems to be understood that the road to musical innovation is one that should be taken slowly. So many of them would rather push the boundaries of more traditional sounds, instead of making an experimentally complex, unlistenable record. After all, if you want to change the world, it's best to be a bit subversive about it, slipping in changes whilst nobody is looking, and if you can give your music a pop facade, then you can inflict much while the casual listener is blissfully unaware of the fact that the music they are listening to isn't traditional at all!

That's one of the charms of Pretty Monster. On the surface, this British duo seem to be quiet, thoughtful folkies, yet underneath all of that, you'll find two men who have a distinctive taste for classy songwriting, and they temper their songs with a post-electronic bent that souds really damn good. It's also reassuring to know that not everybody listens to and emulates Thom Yorke these days, too. When you throw in some pretty nice, rockin' moments like "As A Boy" and lovely dance-beat rants such as "May The Scene Last A Thousand Years" and we're talking about a rethink of all the things we've known and loved about that we called Britpop.

Thankfully, Fort Lauderdale never really try to redefine anything; they're not taking themselves too seriously, and they simply go about making pretty music. And pretty it is! With a hint of what made both Beck and David Bowie utterly wonderful, Pretty Monster simply wants to come into your heart and soul and mind and give you some sweet relief. They never get too raucous, too rowdy, or too loud. They simply go about making music, and whether they're playing a piano on "Silent Ways" or getting kind of racy on "The Chilling Place," they do so with such grace and charm, it makes you wonder why England hasn't fallen to their feet and embraced these two blokes with loving, open arms.

The only flaw to be had with Pretty Monster is more of a technical issue. At times, the songs seem to be slightly muffled; when listened to on a car stereo, the muffled sound is obvious; on headphones, these things don't really stand out. Even though this is a bit of a problem, it's not my main complaint. The occasionally muffled songs seem to lead the album into a bit of a monotonous sound, which really shouldn't mean much, because all of these songs are really, really good by themselves. Still, it's worth noting, because at times it makes listening to Pretty Monster a bit of a drag.

Despite that, Pretty Monster is still a pretty, interesting album by some seriously talented fellows. Perfect for those after-hours parties, suitable for chilling out and coming down after a night of ecstacy and too many pints, Pretty Monster is post-everything music for the free-thinking masses. Just let the pretty monsters in Fort Lauderdale take you by the hand, take you out, and take you to heaven.

--Joseph Kyle

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