Isabel at Sunset - Meet the Gang!

Tom Blackburn 13/10/2007

Rating: 3.5/5

You might not have thought that the music world was crying out for an Italian take on Pavement's sunny slacker rock, and you'd probably be right. But Parma quintet Isabel at Sunset do an admirable job of putting a new spin on the fractured country-blues of their heroes' classic Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain LP.

Vocalist Alain's choice to sing in English leads to some intriguing lyrical images. 'Kevin Keyboards and the Wannabe Indie Stars', its tale of a starry-eyed musician 'in a Pavement cover band' referencing both the aforementioned Californian stoners and Stephen Malkmus' 'Jenny and the Ess-Dog', features some of the album's most confusing lines ('Fill yourself right up, Kev / There's nothing going wrong now / Outsmart the big Jake!') but its driving keyboards and amiable guitar jangle win out.

'Hey Dude!' (not a Kula Shaker reference, you'll be relieved to hear) boasts a tasteful amount of banjo and an irresistible melody, and the album's title track is even better, with jaunty guitars and an impassioned vocal ('We need some fuckin' extra time!') giving way to a piercing coda and the album's prettiest lyrical touch ('I can see the sky in your eyes / Nothing's right / And everything is fading away').

It's that hint of melancholy that makes Meet the Gang! more than just a passable, self-consciously quirky Pavement appropriation. It's not all sun and smiles, as the wistful 'Trucks 'n' Cars' and the surprisingly angry closer 'Just Me in the Mirror' prove. The slow-burning ballad 'Parasites' tips its hat in the direction of Sparklehorse's 'Weird Sisters', its nervous verses building to a driving, fist-in-the-air chorus.

Although Isabel at Sunset are too in thrall to their obvious influences for the album to be truly spectacular, Meet the Gang! is a fine collection of heartfelt, summery indie pop. It's nothing revolutionary, but it is bloody good fun.

Released: 01/10/07