Everybody has at least a couple of fabled albums in their collection that have "grown" on them. It's a phrase you hear often in music, perhaps especially when referring to the ubiquitous FM radio cult, although let's be clear: eventual submission to a song you've been beaten over the head with a million times on radio and MTV and WB programming doesn't constitute "growing on you". (Matchbox 20, are you reading this?) Rather, the phrase is more accurately and fairly applied to that handful of albums that, when heard the first time around, were only marginally interesting. And then the second time through, maybe one or two guitar parts caught your attention. By the fifth spin you're starting to think this thing's pretty damn good. And at twenty, you're certain of its merits, shamed by your earlier dispassion, and convinced that this is probably going to be one of those albums that you'll probably always keep...because it's just that good.
The Power Out is that kind of album. Crafted by four Brighton lovelies who travel in approximately the same circles as Sleater-Kinney and Le Tigre, Electrelane's second full-length is subtly endearing. Formed a comfortable length of time after the Riot Grrrl movement, Electrelane take the best traits of their predecessors -- namely the ability to write catchy rock songs and play a mean guitar -- and leave behind the rest. Obnoxiously in-yer-face grrrl power vocals are pleasingly absent. In their place are the gentle vocal meanderings that color songs like "Birds" and "Enter Laughing". Even when the rhythm section is pounding along, as in "On Parade", the singing remains coolly reticent, giving the album a feeling of cohesiveness.
The Power Out's most impressive feature is the musicianship and songwriting skill on display. Armed with the traditional instruments of rock, Electrelane are a formidable presence, but they also know how -- and when -- to add non-traditional touches, like the gorgeous piano in "This Deed" or the twelve person choir in "The Valleys". The result, particularly on the album's instrumental tracks, is refreshingly diverse. Although it would be difficult to apply the term "catchy", at least in its traditional sense ("Take the Bit Between Your Teeth" excepted), there's something exceedingly likable about Electrelane's songs. The Power Out is just the sort of album to grow on you, slowly but surely; it just needs a few spins to make its virtues known.