Boris Smile - Beartooth EP Release Date: November 2008
Record Label: Count Your Lucky Stars
Some records deserve to be skipped over, whether I had requested to review them or not. There's a sprawling list of albums I am supposed to get done: some will find themselves lauded and graded on this site in time, but let's face it -- most won't. Boris Smile's Beartooth EP is an album that did not deserve my erratic reviewing schedule. My disgraceful treatment can be summed up by the stains from my coffee mug on the poor, little press release. Sorry Will! Sorry Keith! Don't leave me alone with your children, ladies and gentlemen. Anyways -- Count Your Lucky Stars, a record label based in Michigan, is an upstart that has been supporting an amazing array of bands and artists such as the infallible Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate), the undeniably badass The Reptilian, and, in this case, the folksy indie-pop savvy of California's Boris Smile. AP.net's Rich Duncan had some nice things to say about the band's previous releases, Chapter 1 and Young and It Feels So Good, but overall didn't care much for them. If ol' Richie Dunks were more active and were reviewing this here album, I'd think his outlook on Boris would be significantly altered. For the better, ladies and gentlemen, for the better.
A. Wesley Chung had quite a voice and some quick, lyrical wit going for him. The opener "Beartooth (Spooky Version)" goes through a plausible script for the next 3D horror movie (on that note -- My Bloody Valentine, seriously?) with verses like, "You close your eyes and you see him there/Much smarter than your average bear/He rips through tents and cabin walls/With the strength of hell and the force of Niagra Falls." Chung's pipes are all at once sturdy and experienced, clean and mellow. It works best with the crescendoing help of his bandmates, such as early on in the third song on the EP "Tut-Tut." Amid an acoustic guitar increasing in tempo, an electric guitar swimming this way and that, horns making their subtle remarks, and a drum beat kicking in -- Chung sings on with, "You've got a plan/A deadline to keep/They're watching you/Just to see what you'll do." Each instrument soldiers on, utterly dazzling the ears and boggling the mind as to how long it took this incredible song to be composed. "Program Me to Love", the following song, is perhaps my favorite on the EP. Using the semantics, production, and politics of technology today ("Your circuitboard fascinates me"), Chung croons and swoons over his 21st Century girl, electronic flourishes supporting him the entire song through. The album's final song, "Books of Blank Pages", reminded me a lot of The Pale Pacific and the wonderful ballads they'd composed. The song is reserved, more-or-less minimalist, but wholly heartbreaking and down-to-earth.
Looking now at the aforementioned press release for the Beartooth EP, with a scribbled reminder to buy detergent, I feel a little ashamed. Boris Smile have put together a wonderful little album, and here I put it off to abuse that gas station on Moreland Ave. that doesn't card, or working to launch my ill-fated literary career, or, well, reviewing other, less-deserving bands. Let it be recorded that I gave myself a slap on the wrist. If you're at all conditioned to look into each mildly folksy indie-pop band that gets the least bit of press (what a strangely specific lot of you!), the don't skimp on the idea of Boris Smile. They're wonderfully orchestral and brimming with potential.