December 7, 2006

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The Static Age, Blank Screens
Reignition Records, 2006

If it were scientifically possible, I would swear The Static Age vocalist/ guitarist Andrew Paley to be the love child of Nick Cave and Peter Gabriel. The Burlington, VT, quartet remain one of indie rock’s best kept secrets, and keeping things from others just isn’t fair. Traces of the Psychedelic Furs, The Police, and Joy Division can be linked to the band but in no way make up the better sum of their parts.

Blank Screens is only the slightest departure from 2004’s Neon Nights Electric Lives. Equally striking by design and slick production, the band has forged ahead with a more progressive approach and a highly politicized lyric sheet. Making no excuses for his left side lean (see: the entire journal section of the band’s Web site), Paley could be a promising political contender for the DNC if this band thing doesn’t work out. While most rock bands can be linked together easily by their Mesa guitar heads, the trademark characteristics here are immediate. Pulsating bass lines awash in thick chorus, classical-goth keys, spidering melodic guitar lines, and enough stuttering dark disco beats to emerge the Bee Gees from their grave (even though they’re clearly not dead).

Here, growth and a much darker ambiance have taken the band away from making a sequel. Where some of Neon Nights most favorable moments stood at the front of the composition, the best melodies and most intimate moments lie deep within “Trauma” and the captivating title track. Taking cues from the quiet croon of his own side project Paper Tigers, Paley steps out for three songs on his own for Blank Screens. With the band stripped away, all but echoed synth blips and the chilling beauty of his top notch vocals remain on “The Bluebird Room”.

The retro vibe has transcended into almost every sub-genre of pop at this point in one form or another, but it is the darkwave nods and skewed beauty found throughout The Static Age catalog that remains one of the most honest additions in recent years to a trend that they clearly transcend. There was no one else doing anything like Blank Screens in 2006 and honestly, there won’t be in the years to come either. A-

— Sean Joncas