Popular Shapes 'B-Ball Music' 7"

As the last will and testament of Popular Shapes, 'B-Ball Music' is clearly Popular Shapes' most focused and cohesive effort. Savvy listeners will be reminded of The Fall, Le Shok, The Victims and Wire within these two tracks, assuming they weren't knocked over by the sweaty bodies splashing wine from a box. Intricate guitar interplay coasts freely like the plot of The OC while squirmy vocals free themselves from a box. The emphasis is clearly on song-writing, but the exuberance of four boys patting each other shirtless remains as bright a glare as Ford Explorer floodlights. It's rare that a band comes along where all the pieces fit seamlessly, equally throbbing and subdued. 'B-Ball Music' is just that, with equal parts Kobe and Shaq.

There are 10 test pressings, each on black vinyl with handmade covers. There are 835 copies on white vinyl with orange, clear and black spatters, each with a full-color hardstock jacket.

01 - Song 2
02 - Song 4

Terminal Boredom:
I'm far from the jerk who should be reviewing this sort of art-punk thing, but I guess I'm the only one willing to try. The Shapes fill in the blanks of their B-Ball Music song quartet here, with songs 1 and 3 being previously available on the split with Kurt, and "Song 2" is probably the best Popular Shapes I've ever heard. A throbbing concoction of a less pissy-punk Le Shok and less-British The Fall, it's good "art as music"; angular and complicated without sounding too detached or smug, and still possessing a dangerous and wild quality. I'll actually miss these guys now that they're gone. I was just starting to enjoy them.

Dusted Magazine:
A group like the Popular Shapes seems to always exist somewhere down below, constantly getting it right while so many others struggle to maintain balance. They’re from Seattle, in league with the A Frames and the Intelligence, but the most conventional sounding of the lot. Which is not to say they’re conventional at all; quite the contrary, as they write complex, whiplash-quick punk rock that isn’t afraid of technology or making difficult choices. Their music comes off as breathless, triumphantly paranoid, and novel, with lots of right-angle shifts and forks in the road that run right into the wall, flip, and turn over, like those unstoppable toy trucks of our youths. The lazy man will compare them to Les Savy Fav, but there’s a lot more at stake with the Popular Shapes than three riffs per song and a crazyman singer who tries to make you forget. Frontman Nicholas Brawley is too busy trying to wrangle these songs out of the masticated pile of Wire and Le Shok records littering the ground to take his pants off and shock the crowd. While the band’s Bikini Style LP from last year focused more on velocity, the band slows it down a bit with these offerings, songs of a series split across two records, while retaining all of their intensity. Of the two, I’m more fond of the even-numbered single on White Denim/Hate the Eighties, two tightly-knit party crash anthems (day of and day after on the flip) with more parts than a model airplane kit, and excellent splatter vinyl that seals the deal.

Apparently this 7-inch features two songs, and they're called "Song 2" and "Song 4." Slightly confusing, right? It gets wackier: the sleeve says "Song 2 is on the side with The Warrior & Fruit Salad," and I'll be damned, there's a warrior and a fruit salad right there on this label. Must be side one, so let's listen! Okay, this is some pretty alien rock music stuff coming out of my speakers . . . . arty prog quirk with one guitar playing amelodic scalar runs and another guitar doing stabby trebly art-funk chords . . . . a singer yelping with a slight emo-core vibe . . . . rather hyper approach with weird sudden changes moving through quite a few different parts . . . . very prog! I really know nothing about this band at all, like where they're from or who they've played with or anything. "Song 4 is on the side with The Leopard Leg & Green Salad," so let's check that out. A rather more introspective/melancholy feel on this one but the busy/chancey arrangements and riff-piling techniques are the same. The cumulative effect of all the changes and rhythms and collisions is really just as colorful as the wild art on the sleeve, not to mention the splatter-colored vinyl itself. Very interesting post-punk band -- they sound contemporary and American, sure, but I'm also getting a heavy 80s UK DIY vibe -- these tunes would not sound out of place on a Hyped 2 Death comp or some other art-punk obscurity reissue. On the other hand, they remind me of a slightly nicer and more melodic My Name Is Rar Rar!

Released December 2004. Co-released with Hate the Eighties Records.


White Denim
PO Box 605
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004 USA