It's a cardinal sin of record reviewing to judge a band by their album cover, especially in the age of the homemade CDR. If the folks at the NME
or Maximum RocknRoll
had done what I did to skilled New York quartet The Citizens, it's doubtful that great records with bad artwork, like Boys Don't Cry
and Rock for Light
, would ever have escaped their home towns. Sorry, boys, I almost made a big mistake.
With their sweeping, reverby pop/rock and unique-yet-strangely-familiar arrangements, The Citizens cherry-pick the very best from Jeff Buckley, U2, Big Star, even bits of The Waterboys, and re-assemble them into lovely mini-epics bursting with jangly guitars. An ambitious bunch, they're actually at their best when they stretch out on the longest of Are We There Yet's ten tracks. Though The 'Zens' tunes often bear the operatic hallmarks of Buckley and Bono's stuff (the swooning "Clementine" and bombastic title track, respectively), Mark Lesseraux's strong, crystal-clear vocals are most comparable to Ron Sexsmith getting his rock on, especially on the wide-open pop of "Blusher" and the plaintive "Deck Full of Jokers". The unpredictable song structures are fresh and innovative, too, twisting off in unexpected directions mere seconds before you can remember what they remind you of.
I'll apologize for presumptuously writing this intriguing foursome off as bland bar-band bores, but the band will have to answer for that cheesy cover shot on their own. Fear not, though: the cover of The Joshua Tree was kinda shit, too.