Beep Beep - Enchanted Islands
Record Label: Saddle Creek Records
Release Date: March 24, 2009
Enchanted Islands is the second album (and first in nearly five years) from Beep Beep, a project fronted by ex-Gabardine members Eric Bemberger and Chris Hughes.
How Is It?
It's a schizophrenic collection of songs and song fragments that brings together elements of dance-punk, math rock and noise-pop into the sometimes entertaining, but frequently confounding, mix. It's certainly a fair bit more esoteric than your typical Saddle Creek offering, but it probably shouldn't surprise those familiar with their debut, Business Casual. Like its predecessor, Enchanted Islands is similarly disjointed, though some of the jaggedness has been blunted considerably on some of the songs (see the bluesy, organ-led "The Lions Mouth").
The clanging Gang of Four-esque guitars that open "I See You!" clue you in that the new Beep Beep (which has undergone some lineup changes since the first outing) is of the same musical mind as the old, while the noodling on "Mermaid Struggle" confirms that they've retained their penchant for technical guitar play. The jarring sharpness is toned down substantially on the uncharacteristically groovy "Secrets for the Well" and the understated "Return to Me."
The band are at their most compelling on songs like "The Whispering Waves," which seems to find the right combination of discord, melody and compelling musicianship, with the fractured falsetto vocal adding just the right touch. However, the record ends up sounding forced when too many quirks are thrown into the mix, like the country-ish guitars on "Goodbye Sunshine" or the haunting piano and saxophone on "Wooden Nickels" (which sounds oddly like some of the stuff on Ween's La Cucaracha), as they just don't suit the band's sound well, leaving you wondering exactly what Beep Beep are trying to be. The same goes for the synth-laden "Baby Shoes" and "Two-Spirit," the latter of which opens in a manner that sounds not unlike The Knife.
Enchanted Islands sounds a lot like a case of a band taking on too much at once and winding up sounding a bit muddled. With softer falsetto vocals in place of frequent screams, keys occasionally taking prominence over strident guitars, and less overt sexually deviant lyrics, it is less aggressive than Business Casual in just about every way, and unfortunately, it's less vibrant and enjoyable as well. Here's a case where staying inside the box might not have been such a bad idea.