3 out of 5
Label: Sub Pop
Produced by: Bob Weston (engineered by)
Just listing off the bands that come to mind while listening to Six Finger Satellite’s debut has me itching to listen to it again: the poppy post-punk vibe of Gang of Four; a low-end rumble and searing vocals that are reminiscent of Dazzling Killmen; an anarchic sensibility to that same combo that touches on J.G. Thirlwell’s early noise assaults; constant “feller-filler”-esque interstitials; and a harsh-edged, bouncy repetitiveness that looks forward to the group’s eventual home on Load Records, and working with James Murphy.
I mean, I’m sold; I just listened to the album multiple times, and I’ve sold myself on it.
But why do I have to sell myself on it? …Because while all of those references are absolutely present, the combination only amounts to an interesting sound; an arresting one, given those sources, but not something that exceeds (or maybe even meets) their sum.
Perhaps owing to the Bob Weston engineering, the group’s oddly dancey sensibilties are not best served: The Pigeon Is the Most Popular Bird is produced like Weston’s more general pool of Shellac-inspired post-hardcore groups, giving it a pummeling, raw low end. Which SFS take advantage of, so I get the appeal, but their sound is within a very limited range, and pace: almost every track has, approximately, the same combination of bass and drums and scream-shouting; the first couple songs you hear (Home for the Holy Day; Laughing Larry) set the tone and you almost never hear anything otherwise. Which isn’t fair, because there are some pretty awesome breakdowns throughout, especially buried in the last couple tracks, but forefronting the drums and bass makes that hard to pick out.
Our attention spans are also quite tested: any given song does build up steam, but there’s an instrumental / experimental interstitial between every single track, killing momentum that could carry over. This actually makes the repetition worse, because your toe-tapping is halted for a couple minutes, and when it starts back up… it feels like you’ve heard the song before.
But all of this just keeps the album down, not out. The “natural” combination of the above-mentioned sounds makes SFS impossible to ignore, and while it’s not a seamless experience, you will start to pick out more nuance the more you listen to it, and freshly listening to whichever track is guaranteed to give your body a back-breaking fit of dancing and head-banging. It’s the kind of record I don’t think much of when it’s not on, but reading about it makes me want to hear it again, and when I do, it tends to stay on repeat for a bit.