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poised to break
Sunday's Best
Poised to Break
Polyvinyl

(CD)

click for Real Audio Sound Clip

Buy it at Insound!

This record almost does for emo what All Mod Cons did for punk. The songs are melodic, passionately sung and far too diverse to truly be tied to any genre. The only thing they really have in connection with the "emo" genre are Wisconsin genes and a joint sing/yell style that's brought in toward the end of many songs for added intensity. As with Paul Weller's lyrics, the band fills their songwriting with feelings that idealistic youth can connect with, such as distaste for the marketing side of music ("Saccharine") and a fear of looking romantically at the world ("When Is Pearl Harbor Day?"). This latter song, about trying to remember the birthdate of a past girlfriend who used to like the Cars, also contains this interesting passage about memory: "I hate nostalgia/It tries too hard/To remember only the easy parts".

Like most great music groups, though, Sunday's Best are very romantic, seeking to move your emotions and your feet around and about through each song. They succeed because they know, thank God, that a four-minute song should compact moments of our lives rather than trying to capture them in real time; thus, these songs remember just the "big and heavy" easy parts. The feelings are not subtle or nuanced -- which they seldom seem to be among youth -- but they pack a real, legitimate punch in your heart.

My problems with Sunday's Best arise only with regard to the way they foul up consistently rich and catchy wonders like "White, Picket Fences" with lyrics ("Girl, before we both start to say some mean shit that we cannot let go") that prevent them from getting played on radio or for many of our parents and friends. In the aforementioned song, the oft-repeated line's employment of the word "shit" is not used emotionally, or even sung with zest; rather, it's just a popular phrase that popped lazily from the band's heads to the song's surface. Yes, even in the year 2000, despite our culture's casual familiarity with four-letter words, there are still a lot of people who are put off by profanity in song lyrics -- especially when it's used so off-handedly. If you and your friends don't care about such things, buy Poised to Break immediately. I've listened to it for the last few weeks repeatedly,, and the music and playing behind the songs still manages to convey lots of power and pop appeal.

It annoys me a lot, though, that I have heard a great, great band, and I'm not able to comfortably share it with my family or my more conservative friends. It makes me lament, not applaud, the truth behind a statement Wayne Coyne once made: American indie bands don't tend to care about sales or fame. If the great Sunday's Best had given a damn about the radio, they would have fine-tuned their lyrics to such an extent that radio would have finally become a damn wonderful thing to turn on. This, of course, makes the album's title wonderfully ironic; they're Poised to Break on radio, but they've sabotaged themselves.

-- Theodore Defosse

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