Citizens Here and Abroad

Be it a lousy sitcom, an episode of Crossfire or the audible blow-by-blow of the drunken brawl in the apartment next door, we all love eavesdropping on a good argument. Which probably accounts for our attraction to the indie rock dueling-vocalist assault -- the howling poetry of Rainer Maria, the high-concept snarlings of Sleater-Kinney, the preteen angst of Linkin Park.

That's a joke, people. Jesus.

Bay Area band Citizens Here and Abroad aspires to similar catharsis: Chris Groves and Adrienne Robillard's breathy murmurs dart in, out, around and through one another like a double helix as the jagged guitars do likewise. Ghosts of Tables and Chairs expertly positions itself as a quieter, more meditative version of much-loved popsters Dealership, from which two of the four Citizens -- Groves included -- have sprung.

You'll miss the pop. Pick any point on Ghosts and you'll encounter abrupt mood swings, fuzzy melodies and insistent double-edged whispers, but pick another point and you'll encounter precisely the same thing. The few attempts to spice things up -- a xylophone here, a goofy Nintendo melody there -- don't quite graft perfectly, and Groves and Robillard's banter sounds a bit detached, like the snooty neighbors too uppity to attend your barbecue.

Offer 'em a cheese brat or two anyway. Ghosts' latter half yields the swirling eye of "A Change of Scene," which looks solid but bends and refracts when you touch it, like a Matrix computer effect. And when Robillard confusedly guzzles stewardess-distributed wine during "In Flight Movie," you relate. But you hope she's flying somewhere that'll teach her to better express her feelings.


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