"Once Upon a Time in Des Plaines"
by Evan Jones Thorne
In recent years, many bands have attempted to blend the intricate, discordant guitar textures of Sonic Youth with the soulful vocals of Alabama Shakes, but it takes real guts for a band to utterly fail to do so, and then stand behind the results anyway. Such is Once Upon A Time In Des Plaines, the debut EP by midwest indie derplings Trash Pandas. What the songs lack in structure, refinement, logic and overall quality, they make up for in charm and conviction, along with some legitimately surprising musical ability. Katie Nixon boasts a powerful voice which floats over Tim Shaunnessey's arpeggiated guitar lines while Terry Pallanti's bass provides a sense of movement and Brendan Hilliard simply beats chords out of his guitar like a drum--ostensibly to make up for the group's lack of a percussionist, but probably because he looked lonely one day and the other three felt bad for him.
"Space Is Cool" is, frankly, an exercise in fruitless atmospheric pointlessness, but it does serve to set the tone for the rest of the EP. "Dim Sum (Come And Get Sum)" is every bit as dumb as the title makes it out to be, but Nixon's dead-serious vocal over the song's start-stop guitar riff makes the track oddly endearing. "The Wang Song" rides a classic surf rhythm with lyrics about the science behind dongers and how everyone definitely has one.
But it's "Uncle Bob," the song that actually devolves into laughter at the end of the track, that's a genuine surprise. A gentle walking rhythm figure with an atonally fuzzed-out lead opens the song, before blooming into a genuinely compelling pop song. Granted, the lyrics are virtually inscrutable and the production is best described as "four people squeezed into a refrigerator box with a laptop microphone outside," but the melody is moving and while it doesn't follow any sort of verse-chorus-verse structure, it nonetheless shows the group's understanding of pop songcraft.
With plans for a double concept album about potatoes or some shit, Trash Pandas are rushing blindly into the future, stolidly insisting on seeing just how far away they can push potential listeners. However, despite their own best efforts, there genuinely seems to be something here worth watching.
released May 24, 2016
Recorded at Tim and Terry's Apartment in the DP.
Produced, edited and mixed by Tim Shaunnessey.
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