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Audio Reviews
Fun EP
by Algernon Cadwallader
Be Happy Records / Protagonist Music (2009)
Fun EP
All you lot currently prying yourselves from the icy grip of the Snowpocalypse may hate me for writing this, but I actually like the wintertime. I like the solstice/holiday season that kicks everything off, and I like the cold nights that are perfectly suited to heavy blankets, long books, and hot cups of tea. I like wool coats and sweaters, scarves, gloves, and knit caps. I like snow (yeah, you read that correctly), and I don’t mind shoveling it o’ermuch. I especially like the brilliant post-snow days when the sun shines so blindingly brightly and the sky is so clear that, even though the temperature hovers around 20°F with a wind chill of -10°, it feels pleasantly warm—probably from the reflected UVB overload, or perhaps from the residual effects of 750ml winter warmers. Difficult to say which, really.

Even so, there always seems to be at least one album released during the winter months that is remarkably out of place with the season: its songs upbeat and sunny rather than pensive and somber, its lyrics about water sports, sudden rain storms, and hot days spent hanging out at the beach. Not that such sol-worshipping sentiments are wholly unwelcome, it’s just that, typically, spring and summer are so far out of sight and mind during the not-so-bleak midwinter that I am not yet looking forward to the warmer seasons, nor am I so frustrated with the cold that I find myself cursing the drifts and drafts of December–February.

To this effect, Algernon Cadwallader’s Fun EP is something of a wintertime killjoy. Sure, Fun’s primary 7” and bonus CD are full of energetic, entertaining tunes, but they cannot help but bring to mind all those happy instances of spring- and summertime revelry that are still so damnably far away. As such: You tease me with your angularly tap-happy riffs, your hearty rhythms, and your infectious shout-along yawps, Algernon Cadwallader, and I don’t much care for it.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. I do like the music, and this Philadelphia trio’s take on the Chi-town post-punk staple of staccato arpeggiations and hammer-ons, motile bass riffs, punchy percussion, and pleasantly grating vocals is a moderately new twist on a relatively old favourite (see also: Cap’n Jazz, Joan of Arc, Owls, Ghosts and Vodka, Maps & Atlases). Sure, Algernon Cadwallader are a bit rough around the edges, particularly since vocalist Peter Helmis’s emphatic, Tim Kinsella-ish squawking often favours intensity over intelligibility; still, the instrumental combo of Helmis’s understated bass, Joe Reinhart’s noodling six-string, and Tank Bergman’s rambunctious drumming will doubtless keep you coming back for more—probably to the point where Helmis’s slurred burbling is understood both literally and intuitively. Hardly a bad thing, if you ask me.

As for the EP, Side A of Algernon Cadwallader’s Fun 7” keeps things light and energetic with references to summertime frolicking in the Swann Memorial Fountain in “Spit Fountain” and to public intoxication in the eponymous “Fun”. Initially as upbeat as its predecessors, Side B’s “Foggy Mountain” resolves its thoughts on teenaged reticence into a slow, clarinet- and trombone-aided plodder. Though its transformation comes across somewhat unexpectedly at first brush, “Foggy Mountain” serves as a nice prep track for the equally low-key jam of “Black Clouds”, the first of three additional tunes found on the Fun EP’s bonus CD. Similarly, “I Wanna Go to the Beach” seems a bit too laid-back when compared to the band’s earlier efforts (the Some Kind of Cadwallader LP in particular), so it’s worth noting that the song was recorded as part of a school project; ditto for the calming, one-minute-long instrumental of “Responsible Party”. If anything, it will be interesting to see how Algernon Cadwallader integrate their a-lyrical segues and calmer fare into their upcoming second full length.

Like most 7” records and limited-press releases, Algernon Cadwallader’s Fun EP is a grab-bag containing rough cuts and polished gems alike, a short-and-sweet in-betweener designed more for earnest fans and early adopters than casual listeners. Still, if you’re looking for something to help you shake off the mid-winter doldrums (or simply to remind you of how much you miss the summer), then Fun is a pretty good place to start. Better hop to, though—you’d be surprised at how quickly 1000 records can disappear.
Posted by: Tom Körp

Audio Reviews (February 12th, 2010)

Tags: audio, reviews, algernon cadwallader, fun, be happy records, protagonist music