This record will give you the Seabee-jeebies
All We Seabees have slowed things down a bit. That may be a matter of necessity—singer and main songwriter Bryan Fox recently relocated, at least temporarily, to Knoxville—but with their new album MKultra, it has also come as a welcome choice. \"Our last two albums were done in a spastic manner,\" Fox says. \"Both took no more than three days to record and both were done in homes that we lived in. This was the first time we had equipment outside of our own grasp and a studio to fiddle with it. New keys, new pedals and sounds.... I know this record represents that.\"
Recorded by Umbrella Tree\'s Zachary Gresham and released on that band\'s label, Cephalopod, MKultra finds the Seabees fleshing out their sound while revisiting some of the lyrical themes familiar to fans of the band\'s other work: geographic dislocation, loss, deception, friendship. Opening the album, the band compresses a life\'s worth of influences into a little over four minutes and arranges them like photos on a timeline. Opening with an a cappella chant that recalls the spirituals of a bygone and unrecorded era—and hovers achingly close to the melody of \"Amazing Grace\"—\"Tigers\" leans into a banjo-led shuffle, then strides slowly but strongly toward an electrifying finish filled with churning crash cymbals and overdriven guitars. It\'s a song that favorably recalls the folk-fuzz of Neutral Milk Hotel while retaining the Seabees\' unusual, characteristic lilt.
Though the band already proved their skill at pleasingly lush, almost rustic numbers on the interstitial EP Lady Alaska (and again on MKultra with more subdued songs like \"Hartsy Fartsy\" and \"Needle\"), they are at their best when the pace is quicker and the songs become tense and foreboding. On \"Alt Country,\" Fox\'s melody is relentless and accusatory, and he sings like he\'s digging by hand through his own song to find some kernel of truth to hoist out of it: \"Everyone\'s returning back to the South / Though they don\'t really mean it, it carries no clout... / But you\'re returning, are you returning or are you just walking?\" As someone who, in his own words, \"fled Detroit\" three years ago for Tennessee, Fox might not even know the answer himself. But he leads his battalion of Seabees through a thoughtful and beguiling album, one with many questions worth asking.
By Steve Haruch, Nashville Scene
Published September 04, 2008
All We Seabees, \'MKultra\'
With a fresh blend of venom and apathy, indie-folk/rock crew All We Seabees\' three-chord battle charge, \"Alt Country,\" knocks the wind out of those who romanticize new surroundings, be it Music City or Williamsburg.
\"Everyone\'s returning back to the South/ Though they don\'t really mean it/ It carries no clout,\" principal Seabee Bryan Fox intones.
Fox has the right and the nerve to pore through this subject. He\'s a transplant himself, having moved his band to Nashville from Detroit in 2006. But MKultra, the band\'s second 2008 release, makes it clear they didn\'t head south to grow some fake roots.
Several songs, such as the wide-open \"Bankers on Coke,\" have a decidedly wintry, Northern air, with twiddling passages and placid, composed melodies that recall the easiest-to-swallow bits of Jim O\'Rourke.
Energetic peaks, such as \"Alt Country\" and \"Howard,\" find Fox snapping into the Colin Meloy/Jeff Magnum/Eef Barzelay school of reedy, concise delivery.
What the band has opted to take from its new town is its wealth of charitable talents. Zachary Gresham, front man for local art-rock trio Umbrella Tree, recorded the album in his own Scoliosis the Studio, and the disc is being released by UT\'s record label, Cephalopod.
All We Seabees, \'MKultra\'
September 4, 2008