THE SUNSHINE PILLS CONSPIRACY THEORY - Screenings (Hoo Records)
Talking about the start of a record is usually an absurd way to open a review because it infers you haven't heard it the whole way through. It's just that "Dark Pete", the moody instrumental opener from the second album by Melbourne's Screenings, is so overtly - and I'll cut them some slack and say unconsciously - early Died Pretty that I flipped the jewel case over and started hunting for the Myers-Peno credits.
Alas, the bass and Brunetti-styled keys were there but Ronnie's jittery yet soaring vocals and Brett's searing guitar failed to materialise by the end. Truth be known, much of "The Sunshine Pills Conspiracy Theory" is more post-punk-indie-pop than Died Pretty's rise-and-swell, sturm und drang. If you rate a band's influences (and there's a direct line to be drawn from Died Pretty back to the Velvets, make no mistake) and they sound more than half decent in their own right, then Screenings deserve more CD player time than three-quarters of the shite that Triple Jay plugs like the Second Coming.
Screenings show an admirable commitment to variety but eschew hard dynamics for shade and colourings. The title track is supple and fairly catchy pop (keyboard line sometimes to grates.) There's a slice of Goth-tinged dirge in "Oh Pity Me (Complications)" just to bring the mood down. "Hit The Floor" degenerates (or elevates) to a Hammond-and-guitar rave up that's just this side of polite. And there's the rub, for me at times. Screenings occasionally seem too tidy.
Likers of lyrics (you are out there) will dig deep and unearth satisfaction from wry urban observations like "Daily Dose". Overall, Screenings are clever and their presence on your typical indie pop bill would raise the IQ by at least a quotient of four. You can tell as much by their web prescene. Dunno much about the people in Screenings but I sure as hell got a laugh out of the bios on their myspace. You might too.
Musically, I never dug early R.E.M. or the Dream Syndicate much and there are bits of both bands littered throughout "Sunshine Pills". That fact alone should win this album a fair hearing from fans of both. Excuse me now, I have to play "Next To Nothing".– The Barman
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