(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Recording review - Team Spirit, Team Spirit (2013)

Thrashy pop has just enough polish

Has Ayad Al Adhamy found what he's looking for? He quietly deserted his keyboards in Michael Angelakos' Passion Pit to pick up a guitar and get his thrash on. His new band, Team Spirit, couldn't be more different than Passion Pit's emotionally-layered. synth-driven sound. The Team Spirit EP wastes no time resetting expectations. Chiming guitars kick off a raw, uptempo pop masterpiece with "Jesus, He's Alright!". The mix of feedback and roughly screamed vocals give the verse a hint of the Cure's "Pictures of You", although the high energy pace leaves the comparison in the dust. The only drawback was that I had an immune response on my first listen, hearing it as an extreme Christian rocker:
You looked so good
And you're alright
Come and save me, save me
 After hearing Al Adhamy describe himself as a devout atheist, I had to go back and listen again. Now the more I hear it, it sounds like someone in "personal" relationship with Christ. In that light, the chorus reminds me of South Park's "Christian Rock Hard" episode. Regardless of how you hear the message, the breakneck punch is infectious.

The five tracks on the EP consistently deliver a steady stream of thrashing pop even as they vary the flavor: a retro touch of Sweet here, some J. Geils there. Their ace in the hole is their ear for the perfect amount of polish. The band plays with abandon, but the arrangements betray an attention to detail.  "Teenage Love" shows a great balance between rock credibility and power pop. The flailing opening gives way to a heavy rhythms adorned with tons of overdrive guitar. But as soon as the vocals come in, the guitars slip down into a light chop that lets the lyrics stand out. The bridge drops the dynamics into a tight drum/guitar partnership. Where a lesser band would settle for a simpler punch and run, Team Spirit breaks the song up into sections giving each a nuanced yin-yang of riff and grind.

The loose, joyful feel of this music may be the perfect antidote to Passion Pit's introspective self-obsession. but time will tell whether this is a temporary distraction or a longer term project. A five song, 17 minute EP is a fairly low pressure environment. I'm looking forward to hearing whether the band can maintain this level of quality for a whole album. For that matter, if I can catch them at SXSW next week, I'll see how they fill out a longer set. I'm guessing that Team Spirit shines in a club setting.

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