By Nicki Escudero
By Amy Silverman
By Brian Palmer
By Chris Parker
By Troy Farah
By Lauren Wise
By Lauren Wise
Ah, the ravages of suburban youth. Hours spent in the company of your own worthless and unattractive self. Screaming to be noticed and praying to be invisible at the same time. Long nights where you ride into town with your equally self-conscious friends to do nothing in particular, waiting for nothing in particular to happen -- which is when all the really formative things, for some reason, happen. That burning feeling at the pit of your stomach. That moment every night when you lean in close to the mirror, looking for spots, blemishes, your future, the spark of romance, something, anything. Please: anything.
Somewhere there's a kid who needs the new album by The Glands, needs it more than anything else right now. That moment won't last long, and that kid should get his or her young self to the nearest rock 'n' roll mega outlet and make the purchase. (Or strike a blow for the inflated-CD-pricing uproar and steal it. Either way, it counts for Capricorn as a sale and therefore a profit, so your protest ends at the chain; but it's definitely something to do.)
The songs on The Glands aren't really about anything when you take them individually. Musically, as the rock press has duly noted, these four guys from Athens, Georgia, play through a series of set pieces that recall the Kinks, the Who, the Stones, Big Star (mostly Ross Shapiro's vocals, which claw at the melody without ever latching directly onto it); but also the Flaming Lips (Shapiro's vocals again, plus the full harmonies), Guided by Voices, Dinosaur Jr., and so forth. Shapiro's low warble and the soft, fuzzy organ-and-string work on "Mayflower" are "Strawberry Fields Forever," Weezer-ized. The piano part and melody on "Swim" sounds lifted directly from Hunky Dory, though of course (and upon a subsequent spin of HD, just to make sure) it isn't. Which is to say The Glands can flash their influences, and play through them extremely well, without sounding like a rip-off.
But this kid we're hypothesizing doesn't know from Bowie or the Kinks or Big Star just yet, and likely even Weezer is only a dim memory of an older brother's return trip from college. No, the music is one thing, and it'll sound vaguely familiar enough to stick, but what's really going to resonate with this kid are lines like these, from "Mayflower": "I was told when I was young, if you dug a hole straight down/You'd go all the way to China/You have many noble features, and the roots that run so deep/You go all the way to China." And later, when Shapiro sings "California is the way, they still play the double-feature/But you'll have to learn to drive," the point slams home: You're a deep one, and you're stuck here right now. But there are other places.
That, essentially, is the point of the entire album. Single songs on The Glands, as noted before, aren't narrative stories or descriptions of ravaged youth; they're more like a series of disconnected voices from inside that youth's uncertain head: "Why did I go?/I had it so easy/I had a room of my own/And the weather so warm," or "It only hurts me when I laugh/So 'don't laugh'/Is the best you could say." And the voices are occasionally so ambivalent they could be directed inside as well as out: "You could be the real thing, no imitations/You keep letting me down"; "Your heart is in the right place/It's your head that's in a mess."
How true, how true. Hearing The Glands is like having a soundtrack of insecurities lifted from your own head and played back; it's unnerving, but only because it's so damned accurate.