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The Apples in Stereo

Velocity of Sound (Elephant 6/SpinArt)

The Apples' antsy retroactivity has ping-ponged back and forth so many times over the past nine years, it's become downright dizzying, from '60s pop to '80s jangle to '90s indie. By the time the band released its fourth studio album, 2000's Discovery of a World Inside the Moone, it was oscillating between Elliott Smith and the Jackson 5, with sugary funk, sheets of horns and hand-me-down melodies that earned George Harrison his halo. Its roots, however, were still firmly stuck in Beach Boys sweetness and garage-rock fuzz. Sound familiar? It should. It's the same basic formula that the Ramones and the Jesus and Mary Chain followed. So why did it take the Apples so long to make that connection?

Velocity of Sound's first song, "Please," rips the album open like a greedy kid with a bag of candy. Buried are the paisley arrangements and psychedelic whimsy of past Apples releases; this is brisk, blurry power pop that buzzes by like the J&M Chain's Barbed Wire Kissesor Automatic. "I Want," with its two-chord whiplash riff, is so Ramones-like it's ridiculous -- a cartoon of a cartoon of rock and roll. The speed and spunk are intoxicating. Still, a hallucinogenic haze lingers over songs such as "Baroque," whose harmonies unfold with all the floral majesty of the Zombies' "A Rose for Emily," and the wistful "Mystery," in which Robert Schneider's bubbly vocals sound like they're being blown through a bong.

The most surprising influence on Velocity of Sound, though, is the Apples themselves. Tracks like "Do You Understand?" are prime examples of the band's sound circa 1994 -- an ADD-addled mix of Pavement, the Undertones and early Status Quo that first surfaced on Schneider and company's first, homemade EP. In rediscovering some of their roots, the players have rediscovered themselves. Before Brian Wilson became hip (yet again) and the Apples' own Elephant 6 label became a renowned indie-pop collective, they were a raw, ragged and edgy bunch of pothead kids with delusions of pop grandeur. Now it seems they've backtracked a bit, grounding their orchestral ambition in a little white noise and punk-fueled abandon. Although the band has always had a sweet tooth for playground rhymes and lullabies. Velocity of Sound's frenzied innocence is just as apt to elicit head-banging as bed-jumping. Bring your pogo stick to the pit.

 
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