90 Day Men – To Everybody:

4 out of 5

Label: Southern

Produced by: John Congleton

You couldn’t know what to expect when putting on this record. Even in a crowded post-rock scene of incredibly talented people with an insane wealth of musical knowledge, and the creativity to mix and match that with whichever zeitgeist, the exact blend of Chicago groove and math rock and psych and prog that 90 Day Men landed on – after a brilliantly angular debut that nibbed moreso from indie rock and punk – for sophomore outing To Everybody still sounds completely unknown. Followup Panda Park is just as unique, but it’s fully emerged into the weird sing-song orchestral vibe; here, we still have a foot in post-rock, if vaguely, giving the expansive six tracks a backbone; a kick.

The sequencing starts us off as close to (It (Is) It) as we’ll get, with pummeling drums and a stream of notes that approach drone. But things are already quite different: piano is added to the mix as melody, tinkling atop the absorbing bass and crisp guitar, as brought to life by the fomenting talents of producer John Congleton (who was, to me, achieving peak form at this point). And Brian Case’s singing: still off key and of a similar kind of drawled delivery as before, but he’s not giving off disaffection here – his vocals are engaged. It’s a strange brew with just enough familiarity to connect to what came before, which the group shifts further and further from over the next two tracks, dropping down to a less bombastic arrangrment on the nigh-pretty Last Night, A DJ Saved My Life, and stripping things down even further to almost just treated drums and vocals on Saint Theresa In Ecstasy.

The well-named We Blame Chicago is an instrumental in the fashion of Tortoise et. al, and perhaps would’ve been an ideal way to seal this deal, connecting the group’s angularity fully to post-rock shuffle, then sprinkling piano pop on top without fear – it’s like a straight line cutting jagged from punk rock to radio pop.

Hereafter, it’s unclear what direction the band wants to go, and neither Alligator or National Car Crash make the strongest impression, with the closer finally relenting in its last couple minutes to some aggressive riffing and on-the-nose lyrics about Morrissey, as though 90 Day Men doesn’t want to leave things without doing some proper malaise-d posturing.

Despite my attention wavering at album’s end, To Everybody is nonetheless a stunning record, perhaps only less notable in those last tracks because of how notably different the opening 3/4ths are – music that’s still unknown decades on, besides existing on this very disc.