Two songs into Aliens in the Outfield—the latest EP from Nashville ruffians Diarrhea Planet—and Brent Toler is feeling himself: “Why are you chumming with the high class,” he asks a young woman of his acquaintance, when “you could be getting with a badass?” One song over, drummer Casey Weissbuch’s locked himself in the bathroom, where he’s enjoying a few minutes to himself in full view of the mirror. On name alone, it’s hard to say just how seriously a person should be taking a band like Diarrhea Planet; and even harder, when they’re spitting comically awful game, touting the well-documented virtues of self-love, or trying to cram four guitar solos into two-and-a-half minutes. Still, listening to Aliens in the Outfield, you get the distinct impression that, if nobody else is going to take Diarrhea Planet seriously, they may just have to take up the task themselves. Fear not, DP loyal: the five-song Aliens contains no shortage of boot-and-rally solos, nor opportunities for downing freshly keyed beers. But once you cut through the tangled fretwork and all those gang choruses, there’s a quiet ambition at work here, which finds Diarrhea Planet stretching out song lengths and dipping into a darker mood or two.
Recorded with Justin Francis (Anti-Flag, Kenny Rogers), Aliens is Diarrhea Planet’s first release since 2013’s sophomore LP I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams. Francis helps DP maintain a bit more control over the inevitable chaos that arises when you’ve got four guitars, three singers, and—in Weissbuch—a drummer with roughly seven arms. Not that Aliens is an especially polished recording; tempos still fly forward, and vocals still take a note or two to find their pitch. But, with a little more separation between all those moving parts, DP’s frequently squashed studio sound is getting closer to approaching the sweat-spattered energy of their can’t-miss live shows.
Chorus-dodging opener “Heat Wave” is a blur, barreling through a couple Jordan Smith verses, a bridge-to-nowhere from the sweet-voiced Emmett Miller, and at least one barnburning solo. “Heat Wave” feels a bit grafted together by spare parts, getting by purely on forward motion; Smith’s slippery verse melody and Miller’s starry-eyed interlude are no match for the solo jammed between them, and the general apathy at the heart of the lyrics (“I don’t give a shit/ And I know that you don’t care”) don’t exactly help the song linger long past the fadeout. Highlight “Platinum Girls” sets Toler’s “Two Princes” routine up with a lively little melody or three; atop a melody this blithely catchy, a line like the eternally eager Toler’s “though I could never be your nice guy/ I’d proudly be your 20-times-a-night guy” manages, in its fumbling sort of way, to endear.
“Bamboo Curtain” doesn’t limit its self-examination to matters of the flesh; Weissbuch’s stolen moment finds him “washing away all [his] crazy shit that [he] can’t deal with” alongside wads of used Kleenex. While the song’s slantwards melody and flickers of neon guitar recall Weezer‘s Pinkerton-era lonerism, live staple “Spooners” goes for Japandroids-style communal catharsis: “it’s all about the drugs, money, power, and getting off,” Smith yells, adding “and getting fucked up when you can’t get your point across.” Between the extended intro, the false ending, and the wordless chorus, the restless “Spooners” seems too busy getting from one place to another to actually settle into the business of being a song for more than a few seconds at a time. So it goes with closer “Peg Daddy”, which rides a lengthy post-rock buildup into a yearning chorus; the anticipation’s nice, but the song it eventually settles on is your standard-issue existential drama, hinging awkwardly on a slapdash metaphor full of crashing waves and mental prisons.
The uptick in ambition all these take-offs and landings inject into DP’s music is certainly admirable, but the execution’s not always so dazzling; every one of these songs would do well to push the chorus further forward, not to delay the inevitable by throwing another twinkling guitar on the pile. And between the rough-around-the-edges presentation and the ripcord song structures, there’s a certain unfixed quality to these five tracks; you get the feeling, listening to Aliens in the Outfield, that these tunes—spirited, albeit spotty—still haven’t quite come to full fruition, that they’ll be at their best on some Tuesday night in Omaha, not here as presented on record. And, for whatever it’s worth, the more serious notes they’ve attempted to fold into these songs simply can’t match the easy charms of an old chestnut like “Ghost With a Boner”. But the real issue with Aliens in the Outfield isn’t so much unrealized ambitions or misguided stabs at something like maturity. As with every other DP record before it, it’s this: it’ll do in a pinch, but up against that beastly live show, the play-at-home version’s just no match for the real thing.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1xR9huy