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The Lights Went Up (Scenery)

Wednesday, Feb 7 2007
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Sometimes I'm amazed that there are 20 local knockoff versions of one artist (say, Queen), and not one of another. Where's the Berkeley Gnarls Barkley, the Redding Radiohead, the Healdsburg version of the Hold Steady? Are these bands so distinctive that no one can rip them off?

Thankfully, there are groups like Anagram, the local duo of Jess Congdon (ex-Vervein) and Eric Holland (remember Milk Cult?). On the twosome's sophomore LP, Anagram successfully apes two excellent acts: German electro-pop outfit Ms. John Soda and '90s alternababes the Breeders. Here, Congdon's singing has never sounded richer or more emotive, and Holland's swirling guitars, menacing synths, and programmed electro bleeps and burps add a drama that Vervein never captured. A song like "Shelter Street," with its huge, whirling guitar hook, massive chorus, and great topic (Congdon's pal won't shut up about a girl who's out of his league), is so incessantly catchy that it's only a matter of time before some angst-ridden TV show snatches it up. Elsewhere, "If I Was a Scientist" oozes bubblegum melancholia, and the dreamy "Right Kind of Love" auditions for the soundtrack to Lost in Translation II. Much of the album has a cinematic feel, which isn't surprising since the couple works on films together. Maybe that's why they're so good at playing the role of German alternarockers from the past and present. Hell, that sounds like a high-concept show right there. — Dan Strachota

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Dan Strachota

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