The Loud Family – Interbabe Concern – Review

The Loud Family

Interbabe Concern (Alias)
by Nik Rainey

For the dyed-in-the-worsted glow-pop aficionados of the world, Scott Miller’s songs are the stuff obsessions are made of. On first listen, they may not stick with the bubblegum-in-moptop immediacy of even his weirdest antecedents – his ever-increasing predilection for odd time signatures, Alex-Chilton-meets-Molly-Bloom lyrics and screwy aural intrusions are seemingly designed to elude the casual listener – but a few spins later, you’re enmeshed in their brilliance, wondering how you could have lived this long without these sumptuous melodies and smart, forlornly romantic trills permanently imprinted on your soul. Big words, I know, but Miller’s melodic mastery, from his jangle-pop origins in the severely underappreciated Game Theory, to his more assertive present as head-of-household for The Loud Family (ten points and a jar of silt from Brian Wilson’s sandbox to anyone who catches the reference), has a way of inspiring the slobbering superlatives of the newly converted. (You can often find me in airports handing out flowers and TLF press kits in my saffron Nehru jacket and Milleresque perm.) Interbabe Concern, the noisy clan’s third full-length, further affirms his (and their) place in the upper echelon of wriggly songsmiths, chockablock with the kind of pop eccentricities that lazy critics tend to tar with the dreaded “q” word (rhymes with jerky, murky, and gimme another slice of turkey). Taking a left turn from the 3-D sprawl of 1994’s The Tape of Only Linda (due to both another line-up shift and Miller’s decision to self-produce instead of using his longtime knob-twiddler Mitch Easter), Concern strip-mines their approach, pushing the songcraft to the forefront while throwing the oddball details into sharper relief. The latter aspect is what makes his songs so exciting – “Don’t Respond, She Can Tell” employs what sounds like a ball bearing sliding down a sheet of metal as a percussion device, and the pretty acoustic “Screwed Over By Stylish Introverts” is full of sharp, jutting guitar/electro-drum fragments that gradually take over, to name but two examples – but it’s not all gimmickry by any means. Miller has the Costello-like gift of writing lyrics that, while seemingly convoluted and non-linear, plug directly into the emotions (owing in no small part to his honey-sweet voice). Utterly beautiful numbers like “Rise Of The Chokehold Princess” sit side-by-side with harder-rocking tunes like “I No Longer Fear The Headless” (where he even lets out a rock scream!), ingeniously structured tempo-shifters like “Top Dollar Survivalist Hardware,” and flat-out experimental passages like “Where They Sell Antique Food.” (And if you haven’t noticed, he comes up with the best song titles in the biz.) This album demands attention and diligence from its listeners (which is why he’ll never knock Hootie off the charts and back to the golf course), and those who meet its terms will be party to the sort of genius that others need drug-induced nervous breakdowns to achieve. In the pop world, there is no higher praise.