The Envy Corps
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The Envy Corps

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"Soviet Reunion Review"

I now have a growing vision of a thriving mid-west indie scene. I write this as a midwesterner, someone who's a little tired of 80 some-odd percent of movies taking place in New York or LA (you know, unless the story involves a farm or a ranch or rural eccentrics). Music hubs are more evenly dispersed around major cities, but still... Barring the scenes of the major cities: Chicago, Detroit, and Minneapolis, the heartland gets little respect for underground rock.
But now we have an Omaha made famous by Conor Oberst. Your average listener might be surprised to find out the brilliant strangeness of The Flaming Lips is based out of Oklahoma City. And now I would add The Envy Corps, straight out of Ames, Iowa, whose debut full-length Soviet Reunion could easily be mistaken for certain inspired Brits or Icelandics that we know. I can't even think off-hand of anyone of rock notoriety hailing from Iowa.

Ames is, of course, a college town, home of Iowa State University, so it's not completely surprising that a band like The Envy Corps would emerge from its environment. As lead singer, lead songwriter (on this album, at least), and lead studio engineer, Luke Pettipoole appears the focal point of Envy - filling out the four piece is David Yoshimura, guitar; Peter Bovenmyer, bass; and Derek Powers, drums, although in the studio all take turns with various keyboards and the occasional contrabassoon, transistor radio, or ocarina.

Their sound - well, Radiohead has become a basic-level touchstone for lazy music critics - but half the time, Soviet Reunion sounds like some lost Radiohead b-side export from Japan, post Kid A, even down to the timbre of Pettipoole's voice, the off-kilter lyrics, the repeated phrases. A few songs channel Sigur Rós as well, with the inclusion of reverb-y falsettos and glockenspiels. All of this is even more impressive when you learn that most of the studio work was done by the band themselves.

Soviet Reunion starts out strongly with the third track, "You'd Look Good in Wings, Part II" (you're looking good / for a man in pain / keep your head in your knees / and your feet on the bottom), the first two are brief build-up intro. "Prisoner of War" is piano-driven, ending with an approximation of building distorted guitar from Pablo Honey's "Blowout." "M. Gatewood" is quirky and loping (typing away / in a corner of the library / waiting for an open curtain / shooting out to wake me up). "Walls" starts out quietly before bursting into sound on its way out (haven't you heard / I've survived the blast). "<br>" is most akin to Amnesiac-style experimentalism. "A Purpose" begins to pull in Sigur Rós influences of deliberate pacing, long extended phrases, and delicate keyboards - continued in the glockenspiels of "Keys to Good Living," with its sudden explosion of sound.

Soviet Reunion is a solid album through and through, and a nice discovery for fans of modern-era experimental rock. With any luck, they'll be at the forefront of an Iowan indie movement ... perhaps next will be the Dakotas?

- Bigyawn.net


Discography

2004 - 'Soviet Reunion', TEC's debut full length, reached number 63 on CMJ 200 in February 2004 and is currently in rotation at over 200 college stations and streams from many online sites.

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