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
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.
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. Theyíre from Seattle, in league with the A Frames and
the Intelligence, but the most conventional sounding of the lot. Which is not to say theyíre conventional
at all; quite the contrary, as they write complex, whiplash-quick punk rock that isnít 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 thereís
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
bandís 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, Iím 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.