Spiral Stairs, aka
Scott Kannberg, found post-Pavement success on All This Sounds Gas
. However, while Gas
benefitted from the accumulation of songs Kannberg -- er, Stairs -- had written over the years, Monsoon
is filled with all new work that hasn't been buffed and polished over the past decade. It's a fine collection of rootsy, catchy ditties, but it never elevated long enough to keep my attention.
"The Furnace Sun" and "Walk of a Gurl" are solid openers, precisely measured foot-tappers that set the stage for the strum-fest to come. Unfortunately, the album can't reach an escape velocity and evolve into something beyond "nice". There's far too much nondescript strumming and far too few meaningful hooks. When the band actually seizes on a chunky riff or shows signs of possibly rocking out (as on "If the Straits of Magellan Should Ever Run Dry"), they seem abandon it quickly as a matter of course. The most memorable tracks are the last two: a jaunty collaboration with Wilco entitled "Get Your Crayons Out!" and "Tone it Down", a semi-soothing strummer that builds slowly to a crescendo with personality. As it stands, Monsoon will probably accommodate the average listener. Me? Well, I guess I may be asking too much for PSOI to bowl me over, but I wouldn't be quite so disappointed at their failure to do so if I didn't sense their potential for invention on every track.