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Less Pain Forever - "I Know What It's Like To Want To Dance"

Accretions is a San Diego imprint known largely for its abstract, experimental investigations by seriously minded composers and improvisers. So what is the goofy, indie pop duo of James Karnes and Christopher Pomerenke doing on the label's roster? Karnes plays a double guitar/bass contraption, while Pomerenke has a synth mounted on his kick drum. While those unorthodox instrumental configurations may firmly put Less Pain Forever in the Accretions camp, its catchy and, more shockingly, structured rock and pop anthems are a complete sonic oddity for this label. It would be like if Britney Spears were to sign to Thrill Jockey. Not only that, but the two sing and harmonize, too.

Initial reference points would be to ironists and satirists like They Might Be Giants, Ween, and Frank Zappa, especially on the stomping glam rock opener, "Throw Your Babies." However, the rest of the album finds the pair moving mainly between '70s pop rock, '90s indie rock, and '80s New Wave power pop, somewhere between Big Star, Modest Mouse, early XTC, and the New Pornographers. It's hardly challenging fare, but danceable in a frantic, skinny-tie way that definitely matches the spirit of the album title.

What saves "I Know What" is its wry, absurd lyrics. Wordsmiths in the best tradition of Elvis Costello, Robyn Hitchcock, Tom Waits, and Carl Newman, Karnes and Pomerenke are among those few songwriters whose deft felicity with words is appreciated equally reading the lyrics with and without the music. What should we make of Accretions' signing of this brainy, comic duo? Considering this label's reputation for challenging sounds, why shouldn't it do the unexpected? After all, isn't that what experimentation is all about?

     - Richard Moule, Grooves

For their proper debut album, following a split EP with fellow quirky Arizona art-poppers Peachcake, Less Pain Forever joined up with producers Ryan Page and Aaron Mullan at Lee Ranaldo's Echo Canyon Studio to record the fractured neo-new wave of I Know What It's Like To Want To Dance. Singing multi-instrumentalists James Karnes and Christopher Pomerenke are in the self-consciously nerdy subgroup of indie rockers, spiritual followers of the young David Byrne and the early Feelies with a similar fondness for strangulated, adenoidal vocals and tightly constricted guitar lines, but lacking the essential hint of white-boy funk that made those artist palatable to audiences wider than merely the D&D players of the rock and roll world. There are a few good songs here, with the rhythmically inventive "Throw Your Babies" foremost among them, but there's an overarching feeling of schtick that permeates I Know What It's Like To Want To Dance, and it makes the album hard to listen to for more than a couple songs per sitting.

     - Stewart Mason, All Music Guide


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