Basics: Underground Cities is described as being "formed by old high school friends in the summer of 2009 from the remnants of punk, indie, metal and rockabilly bands." Thankfully, Underground Cities is not just one of these sounds -- the band plays instrumental rock songs in the vein of Explosions in the Sky and Do Make Say Think. It's definitely a nice change of pace for YAFI. The River Jones label stalwarts have plenty of talent and polish with a rather interesting presentation, to boot. Let me tell you -- it's the little things that will most certainly get you noticed in this YAFI game.
Best Song: Second track "It's Raining in the Attic" describes an all-too-common occurrence in Phoenix -- rain in one's attic. Seriously, though, I don't know where a bunch of guys from Phoenix get off naming a song after two things that aren't exactly widespread in Arizona -- rain and attics. Maybe they knew they had a fantastic song on their hands and figured giving it a totally bizarre -- especially by Arizona standards -- name would act as a testament to the song. It's name aside, "It's Raining in the Attic" takes the top honor on Dalliance. It is the perfect mix of mellow, instrumental rock with oft-frenetic interludes to help keep things from teetering over the edge of so-called, artsy fartsy "soundscapes."
Worst Song: Every instrumental rock band has to make the last song on their album over 10 minutes long. It's as if it's some unwritten rite of passage. Granted, instrumental rock lends itself rather nicely to songs over 10 minutes long -- hell, you'll never see me complain about a 23-minute-long Godspeed You! Black Emperor song. However, Underground Cities had a pretty unique thing going throughout the first four songs on Dalliance -- each one was no longer than six minutes. Of course the fifth and final song "Six Years on This Road" is three seconds shy of clocking in at 11 minutes long. I suppose the song's length was just a formality for the band, but they could have gone against the grain and kept that final track under 10 minutes.
Suggestions: I assume the guys in the band have heard the aforementioned Quebecois instrumental/indie rock outfit Godspeed You! Black Emperor. If not, go get their 2002 album Yanqui UXO immediately. But what about Skinny Fists? I know, I know but Yanqui UXO is a better blueprint for what Underground Cities is striving to be. If Godspeed is already commonplace for the guys in the band, then so be it. There's a lot to be learned from that band. If you're reading this and haven't heard Godspeed, then go out and find their music right now.
As well, the Dalliance CD is perhaps one of the most visually appealing discs I have seen in long time. I was already excited for the album upon seeing the CD, and that's most definitely a great way to start a review -- on a positive note.
If you're a musician from the Phoenix metro area and would like to have your music reviewed in You Asked For It (our first-come, first-served and often harsh record review column) please send it in an envelope marked "YAFI" to:
Michael Lopez You Asked For It c/o Phoenix New Times 1201 E. Jefferson Street Phoenix, AZ 85034