Smile Brigade – Take the Precious Edge Off This Treacherous Ledge
Record Label: Tilton House Records
Release Date: November, 13 2007
I can’t say I’m surprised that Smile Brigade is from Seattle. Best suited with mild precipitation and organic wallpaper, Take the Precious Edge Off This Treacherous Ledge is a folk-pop full-length that strolls like a lazy trail hike. Buzzing guitars reel around and project a grungy overview that makes this album both mildly charming and slightly depressing. J. Hiram Boggs’ husky vocals are a perfect fit with the slumpy vernacular and a trendy whiskey drink.
“LWB” institutes a stronger dirty guitar and sudden, clever transitions – the song distinguishes itself from the rest of the album. When the guitars kick in, and even wail a little, Smile Brigade live up to more rock than sauntering. “At the Tail End of Everything” and closing track “Reflektor” are the direct opposite. The background harmonies still play wallflower, but the acoustic guitar is lo-fi and spunky. Works well and bright for these hot seconds, but when you look at the album as an experiential good, Smile Brigade is only halfway to a mellow but wholly kind version of folk-pop. This experiential good makes me sluggish, and being sluggish isn't an indie cool, even in if you're on Sub Pop.
“Mayor of Olympia” or “Rafts on Fire” are great examples for the whole product. The melodies are simple – both are un-exerted pop numbers, both bring in background harmonies that croon for crooning’s sake, and neither try too hard. But, in a way, they almost don’t try hard enough. There aren’t any moments of pure, breath-grabbing genius on Take the Precious Edge, and most of the album works at a mid-tempo to slower pace. While I hear the same pop tendencies of a band with genius moments like the Pixies, Smile Brigade teeters on the edge of boring. Only a few tracks (mentioned in the previous paragraph) are a cut above this yawn, but I can still appreciate where Smile Brigade is going. Their tunes are decidedly vintage, and anyone with a favorable approach to bands like Sonic Youth or Sunny Day Real Estate can at least respect the album. That's not so dangerous of a cliff to seesaw on.