The Poison Control Center-Stranger Ballet

Hopefully by now you’ve had a chance to check out the songs that have been released from this album. The first single, “Torpedoes on Tuesday” is a great introduction to this record (probably why it’s also the lead track). “Dracula’s Casket” is a fun smack in the face that comes in just under 2 minutes. And of course the third track is the one that The Poison Control Center was so kind as to let us debut it right here on Music. Defined.Terminal.” These three songs all show growth in important areas that the band was already doing a damn fine job in. So it’s easy to say that the short form review of this record is: It’s really fucking good.

But this wouldn’t be much of a music blog if I left it there, so let me give you some of my thoughts on Stranger Ballet.

My first take on the record was one of admiration. The band has grown so much since their first record, Collage of Impressions. That album made CMJ’s Top 100 for 2007, and while I like most of it, there are some times when the band gets a bit off course. On Sad Sour Future, the band really opens up and let go. It’s a sprawling record with a lot more good than bad. A really good listen, but not quite a great record.

Which is why the most important growth I see on Stranger Ballet is the ability to self-edit. The record is eleven tracks, with only one going over the 4-minute mark. A lot of bands, especially ones who have been lucky enough to make a third album, like to self-indulge a bit once they’ve gained some success. That isn’t the case here. Everything is scaled back a bit: less unnecessary effects, less solos, less genre-mixing. In all, I think the album Poison Control Center put out is exactly the one they wanted to make, and it shows a lot of maturity to not bend to those cravings for more, more, more.

Of the eleven tracks, there isn’t a bad one in the bunch. “Terminal” is my favorite of course, but there are a bunch of songs I could listen to on repeat. “Thousand Colors” is probably my second choice song. It kicks off a bit like The Flaming Lips “Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” from At War With The Mystics and it gets pretty crazy.

“Seagull” was played when I saw PCC at Schubas a while back, and it has a great line that goes “Words could not describe the details so fuck my latest haiku.” I smile every time I hear that line. I happened to have my camera with me at the show and caught this song on video, so here that is:

It’s strange for a band to have more than one really talented singer/songwriter, which is probably why I focus on one (Patrick), but the truth is Patrick, Devin, and Joe are all great. David’s probably awesome too, but he doesn’t get to sing (because he hates The Beatles-disclaimer: I just made this up, but he really doesn’t like The Beatles).

Is it too early to make The Band comparisons? Probably. But I’d have to think about it a real long time before I could think of another band where at least three members are equally talented at singing and writing. Each of them bring in certain strengths, and whatever their weakness, it gets covered up by the other guys in the band.

Now, when I first got a copy of Stranger Ballet, I gave it a couple spins and then sent out this tweet: Have @123sayPCC out-Smith Western’d @SmithWesterns? And here’s what I meant by that: Smith Westerns are great. Love Dye It Blonde, listen to it all the time. Their 60’s influence, like PCC over the years, is evident. The difference is the guys in PCC are men. They’ve lived and experienced things that Smith Westerns certainly will (and fast, seeing how they already opened for Wilco), but haven’t yet.

The Poison Control Center write songs about what they know, things they’ve lived through. They’re creative, but they aren’t just pulling stuff out of the air and making songs out of it. That’s why right now Smith Westerns are being featured in Hilfiger ads with their bright and sunny pop while PCC is making people weep with the beauty of something like “Reoccuring Kind.”

Hyperbole perhaps, but listen to both Dye It Blonde and Stranger Ballet back-to-back and you be the judge. I’m guessing at least 75% pick Poison Control Center.

For anyone who wants to learn more about PCC, check out this interview that I conducted with them a few months ago:

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