By Jeremy Essig
By Jason Robinson
By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
You would need a graphing calculator, a strong cup of coffee and a really good memory to keep track of Tight Pants Syndrome's many different incarnations. This city's purest power-pop band has become a revolving door of sorts: Fully Attractive features contributions from one-time frontman Tim McAvin, who now leads Karate Bikini, as well as lead vocals from Erin Hogan, who has since moved away from St. Louis. Bassist Brian McClelland (ex-Maxtone Four) and TPS guitarist/cofounder Tom Stephens rounds out the live lineup. These shifts can be dizzying, but it's to the band's credit that the album makes for such seamless listening, even with four lead vocalists sharing the mic. Lovers of pop music, whether '60s girl groups, '70s bubblegum or nervy, New Pornographers-esque indie rock, will find a new favorite song among these gems.
The band shoots for extravagance on opener "New Hit Record (Tammy)." Harp glissandos, tympani rolls and a battalion of harmony vocalists construct a wall of sound while the lyrics offer a meta commentary that guides the rest of the disc: It's a great pop song about writing a great pop song. On the rest of the seventeen-song disc, the band's bag of tricks is well worn but always effective. A chiming twelve-string opens "Get Outta My Haircut," keyboardist Jenn Malzone's punchy ultimatum, and later bom-bom-bom harmonies buoy McAvin's "Honey." You're probably never going to fall in love with a TPS song for the lyrics, and that's OK — these tunes are conveyances for hooks and harmonies, and many of these cheeky rhymed couplets are good for a smirk on the first few listens. Malzone's "Waiting on a Signal" follows suit, but her coolly seductive delivery (along with ubiquitous harmony vocals and some elegant string flourishes) make the song a highlight.
It's the eternal curse of the always-evolving Tight Pants Syndrome that this record, made with this now-defunct lineup, may be the group's best work. But with McClellan, Stephens and Malzone still keeping the band (and brand) alive, the best may be yet to come. (If the wealth of tracks on Attractive doesn't sate your need for effervescent guitar rock, the band is giving away a limited-edition EP titled Don't Panic at this Saturday's release show, including a cover of Wings' eternal "Jet.")
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