Thursday, February 28, 2008

One music review by Alison Ross

A Breath of Selmanaires
by Alison Ross

I purchased the first Selmanaires CD, "Here Come the Selmanaires," on a whim. I was at my beloved record haunt, Criminal Records, lackadaisically looking for nothing in particular, when I came across the CD categorized under "local music." I figured since I didn't at that time own any tunes by an Atlanta band, I might as well give it a whirl. Besides, often I have become besotted over albums and bands I fortuitously discover.

However, the first Selmanaires CD did not initially intoxicate me like I had hoped it would. I found it quaintly curious for a few weeks - the danceable rhythms and infectious refrains made it fun to listen to - but mostly I regarded it as a rather amateurish endeavor. So I shoved it inside the box and soon forgot about it.

But then I saw the Selmanaires live a few months back, which urged a metamorphosis of mindset toward this vastly underrated band. The band's performance was as engergizing as the more popular bands on the Atlanta's Burning bill (Snowden, Black Lips, Deerhunter). The Selmanaires injected vigorous life into the songs from its debut effort, and I evolved a heightened respect for the band.

In contrast to the first CD, the new CD by the Selmanaires, The Air Salesman, immediately took hostage my aural sensibilities. I had heard some of the songs live and on MySpace previously, and I so I already knew that I was in for a treat. The Selmanaires has magnificently matured and come into its own inimitable sound. The songs on the CD mix and match genres with fluid facility. At times the band churns out what I would term psychedelic disco, with a buoyant beat and trippy hooks, at other times it mimics the grit and spit of garage rock - and later it even meanders into the sacred stomping grounds of southern rock.

The band owes its style to a bizarre mishmash of influences, ranging from 60s pop to 70s and 80s art-rock, rock, and dance tunes, to even more primitive sources. The standout track, "Verdigris Intrigue," is like a lush, langorous derivative of a Byrds tune. "Nite Beat," another notable track, evokes the sonic aftermath of a gleefully messy Talking Heads/Bee Gees collision. The leading track, "Broken Mirrors in the Mud," is a frenetic tribal stomp, and the riveting "Animal" howls with primal potency in the jungle of the new-wave revival. The CD rounds out with a song that recalls the southern-saturated classic rock of much-mocked but still-great Lynyrd Skynyrd. Sometimes, the genre-jumping can be rather distracting, but by the end, the CD has achieved a sort of asymmetrical congruity.

In addition to boasting a deft musicality, it seems the Selmanaires have a social conscience, to boot - there are covert political references sprinkled throughout the otherwise often opaque lyrics, and even more blatantly, the title of the CD (an anagram of the bands' name) alludes to the crass commercialization of everything, to the point to where it seems like even air will be for sale one day. Hell, with the pervasive privatization of an essential resource like water, the commodification of oxygen would certainly seem perilously imminent.

The Selmanaires' sound is a breath of clean oxygen. The band has crafted a charismatic collection of songs that is by turns effervescent and defiantly eccentric. I do believe the Selmanaires are on the cusp of greater success - and if they never reach that apex, that would be a sullen shame.

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