Marmoset – Record In Red

3 out of 5

Label: Secretly Canadian

Produced by: LonPaul Ellrich

Whether in their early, ramshackle jangle days – of which Record In Red is part – or their latter, more structured indie rock, Marmoset has straddled the line between seeming like an accident of musicians stumbling into one another, and a legit band with a legit drive. This haziness of presentation is part of their appeal, capable of offering up Pavement sloppiness or Guided By Voices riffitude in equal measure, and then sudden dips into emotive, affecting blips, all dusted with a kind of dark mystery… but, for me, it comes with a limited attention-grabbing span: the relative unfocused nature of their recordings works best in short bursts. And they’ve often worked in that very nature: short tracks, short albums.

Record In Red, was their first step towards shoring up some of their looseness – ditching the Thinking Fellers-ish filler, and allowing songs to break the two-minute mark (and three-minute mark!) – and absolutely bears the benefit of that songwriting maturity: tracks like Art-Maker, Summertime is Easy, and closer Walking Through the Lake slink and slide from abstracts into pop majesty, creepy keys and rhythms tempered by catchy hooks; vague lyrics tweaked into something more clever or deeper via repetition, or the addition of just a few more lines or thoughts… The 70s Velvet Underground vibe also becomes stronger, giving the album an appealing, relic-like sound – something dug up and discovered.

However, the band’s tendency to write in sketches tends to limit the impact and consistency of the tracks. Even though given the extra runtime, they generally don’t get very far before ending a song, and some of the more interesting ideas seem to just pop up for a second before disappearing. It’s almost better when the group keeps it simple, offering their hooks and ideas up front, suggesting the distilled, shorter format – that short runtime – may still be their best approach. It’s a first step toward a more comparatively streamlined style, yes, but that seems to have just put them halfway between their former and latter approaches.

RiR is never uninteresting, though, and as usual for Marmoset, for a group that sounds so offhand – disaffected singing, slighty askew timings – the album is rife with hummable melodies and mash-ups of off-key elements that somehow become pleasant when pushed togegher.