CD Review: Russian Spy Camera

Talk about a release I was not expecting. I had long thought Russian Spy Camera done for but here it is, with a new album no less. According to the band’s website, no shows are happening for a bit, bummer, but understandable since Ryan White’s last known location was Vienna! Just further proof that Athens doesn’t let her own stray too far away from home without at least sending an audio postcard. Meanwhile, we’ve got a new album to pick apart so let’s get to it!

Argyle Smile is a distorted, rhythmic ditty, punctuated with an ever present acoustic guitar and a pounding background drum making it a memorable opener. Memorable in the sense that you’ll be humming it all day but may not remember all the words. That’s okay. Still a solid tune.

I Dream of Draining the Mediterranean sounds like it could be an outtake from a Venice is Sinking album. I almost wish that the lyrics weren’t about dreaming since the entire song sounds like a dream already. But despite that little quibble, you’ll enjoy the softly swaying tune.

Let’s Draw Straws works well leading into “Manic Movement.” A very danceable tune, and probably would be killer live. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for it.

Manic Movement is upbeat, interesting, and sounds a lot like the clapping games we all used to do as school children. That is, until it goes into B-52s surf territory. From there, it takes off into a barely restrained rock and roll quiet-loud-quiet mode. It’s amazing and the best track on the album in my opinion. Groovy baby…

Fake Your Own Death evokes yet another local comparison, this time from Casper and the Cookies. The distorted voice meets gently strummed guitar is peaceful enough. Not a whole lot to say about this one.

In the House of the Tragic Poet is a welcome change. You’ve got a bit of Spanish guitar picking going on in the beginning, lending the whole tune a sort of wandering gypsy vibe. I bet this is fun to play around a campfire with some friends. The horn section was a nice touch. This was by far my favorite track on the whole shebang, minus Manic Movement, of course.

Travel Romance was a pleasant surprise as well. No distortion on the vocals, a lovely backing violin, and a straightforward delivery.

In A Spiral sees a return of the fuzzy vocals. The seemingly small addition of random beeps throughout the chorus keeps the by the book song from treading too far into “been there, done that” territory. I think the ambient sounds, the little “pings” and swirling feedback adds plenty of interest to the song. Worth the few listens it takes to get into it.

M Withdrawals is the rocker you were waiting for. The waltzing rhythm evokes smokey nights in a jazzy speakeasy. Midway, it turns into a howling lament, with percussion taking the forefront while a chorus of broken hearts yell along. I would’ve stuck this at the end of the album myself but it works here, too.

Istanbul to Berlin by Train begins with a lovely piano, accompanied by a woman speaking in a foreign language. It’s pretty much exactly what the title says it is. I can see this playing in a movie as the main character hops a train and looks out the window at the landscape. Keep the track playing for a jarring surprise.

Cliche Pop Song is probably the least cliche pop song on the album, funnily enough. But it’s not much to talk about.

So, overall, M Withdrawals is a rather uneven album. I’m not saying that any of it is bad, not by a long shot. But the good points of the record tend to overshadow the rest, making it seem like simple filler. It’s really great to listen to when you need something that will change from song to song, mood to mood. So happy listening!

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