Label: Minty Fresh
About a year ago I was milling through the used CD bins on St. Marks and I stumbled upon a compilation benefiting a Chicago performance art group called Doorika. Most of the bands on the comp were from Chicago (Tortoise, Sea and Cake, etc.) but of the twenty or so songs, only one really seemed like anything other than just a throwaway track for a good cause. The song was called “Chocolates” and was recorded by an relatively unknown band called themselves The Aluminum Group. Six months later the band recorded their debut masterpiece, “Plano” on the sugar-pop, hometown label Minty Fresh.
Listening to The Aluminum Group is like walking directly back into what youºd like to remember your adolescence as. I’m thinking specifically of that time and place where stacks of Prefab Sprout, Aztec Camera, Roxy Music and “Body & Soul” era Joe Jackson records were strewn across your floor and you were falling in love for the first time, making mix tapes for the crush of the moment. The Aluminum Group is the brainchild of brothers John and Frank Navin. The twelve sweet and sophisticated songs on “Plano” come across as the perfect fusion of 80ºs alterna-pop (complete with synth beats and jangly guitar strums) and the sophisticated slightly more serious emotional and lyrical stylings and orchestral rock of Eric Matthews.
“Chocolates,” which is the song that begins the album, still remains one of the brightest most upbeat songs since Richard Davies “Cantina.” But this album is easily among the deepest most user friendly I have heard in quite a while. While each song is as catchy and intelligent as the last (not unlike the first few Lloyd Cole albums in the mid-to-late 80s) “Plano” navigates that line between sappy and smoky-cool without a moments hesitation.
The Navin brothers harmonize with two of the purest male voices in years, which they aptly apply to an unusual brand of new wave lounge music. The music bristles with moments of jazz inspired brass (“Storytime”), space age keyboard melodies (“Stream”), and classy lounge numbers like (“Star Wish”).
But more than anything, the most impressive thing about The Aluminum Group is that they do everything at a really high level. Lyrically they dance neatly around the trap of sounding cheesy and instead create literate songs that make you, laugh, cry and think.
The Aluminum Group may never be a household name, but frankly a loyal following of 20,000 might perhaps renew my faith in the American sub-cultural taste. This is a record where every song is as strong as the last, and one that deserves a complete listening every time it’s played. Throw it into a rotation with Eric Matthews, Robert Wyatt, Mark Eitzel, and the Red House Painters and you’ve got yourself an artfully cool romantic affair going on.