Shallow, shallow, shallow. Fun, fun, fun. With their disposable, flammable little guitar pop, the Apples in Stereo walk the line between lo-fi charm and utter irrelevance. Velocity of Sound won't settle that argument for anyone, but on 11 tracks -- crammed into just under a half-hour -- the band keeps on keepin' on.
The strategy remains the same for Robert Schneider and his cohorts. Overamped guitars, pounding drums, lots of easy rhymes about girls (or, if drummer Hilarie Sidney is doing the writing and singing, about boys). Rinse and repeat, over and over and over again. Preferably in less than three minutes. And if you can get it in under two -- like on the we're-the-Beach-Boys façade of "She's Telling Lies" -- hey, even better.
With every component boiled down to its garage-rock core, Velocity of Sound could become tiresome or obvious if it weren't for the manic entertainment value of this band's music. Like most groups in the Elephant 6 mafia -- all hail indie-whiteboy purity -- the Apples in Stereo exhibit a dorkish obsessiveness for studio insularity. Tracks such as "I Want" and "Yore Days" are the rave-ups of kids so uncool that even Rivers Cuomo wouldn't have hung out with them. But what they lack in Strokes-style magnetism they more than make up for in underdog camaraderie. Combustible songs such as "Mystery" and "Do You Understand?" rally around their pent-up aggression and repressed sexuality in classic nerd-becomes-the-prom-king style.
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It would be nice, though, if this band interacted with the outside world a little more often -- or ever, for that matter. Velocity of Sound's tracks can feel hermetically sealed, the creations of lab rats who never see the sun. Because of this, there's very little wit or bite to these songs. Rarely do you stumble upon a great lyric, unless "downtown is like a slot machine" counts. But the Apples in Stereo aren't selling drama or sophistication or even a how-to manual in interpersonal skills. These kids' entire reason for being is the almighty worship of fuzzed-out guitars and hooks, hooks, and more hooks. It's difficult to expect humanity from a group of people who rarely hang out with fellow earthlings in their free time.