"Agony Through Ceremony" (SLAMjamz)
Thursday, November 30, 2006
By Casey Hayman
The Scallions are a self-described "avant-garde power pop" duo consisting of brothers Mike and Shawn Franklin. Their latest LP, "Agony Through Ceremony," is being put out by Chuck D's (yes, that Chuck D) online imprint, SLAMjamz. Interested? I was too.
Upon listening to the album, I must say: it didn't strike me as overly avant-garde. But everything's relative, I suppose, and in the hyper-normalized genre of pop music, "Agony Through Ceremony" is certainly a bit strange -- and in a very good way. At their best, on songs like "Gladys," the brothers Franklin create surreal soundscapes that evoke Brian Wilson's brilliant descent into madness. At other times (see the opening of "Dusk"), The Scallions make use of synthesized sounds that may have been best left in the '80s; the reverb-saturated Kenny G-esque sax solo on "2" taints what is otherwise a beautiful tune.
But when they get it right, as with the haunting keys on the ethereal "Goodbye," the results verge on genius. I understand what Chuck D saw in these fellas. "Agony Through Ceremony" may not be as revolutionary as, say, "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back," but it's a beautifully strange pop album in a world that could use a few more beautifully strange pop albums.