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Chasing Dragons
Co-Opt Records

Pretty much everyone these days talks about how their band defies genre labels, and pretty much everyone sounds like they're a little too pleased with themselves, and a bit too tired of the rest of us, when they say it. Bockman, however, go out on a limb and call themselves "psychedelic prog-pop," which is refreshingly honest, even if it just means they sound like The Slip, TV On The Radio, and maybe a less formulaic Guster.

They take their name from a Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s book, but there's no ironic absurdity in the songs on Chasing Dragons. In fact, it can be said with absolute sincerity that four of the first five tracks are very cool. Album opener "Tied To The Moon" summons the kind of euphoric vibrancy that only a prominent piano and layers of harmony vocals can impart. Lyrically, there aren't many hooks, but Andrew Weir's oddly new wave vocal style works well as a fifth instrumental voice and the use of synthesizer on songs like "Isis" reminds us that the most memorable parts of some songs aren't the lyrics in the chorus.

Bockman keeps the synth under control, too, unlike many bands that get a kick out of "challenging" our notions of what pop music should sound like. Songs like "Rad" mix electronic and acoustic timbres in ways that suggest pianos and keyboards have more in common than just 88 keys. On "Squirrel View" the bass rolls beneath the song in tandem with the keyboard and trance-inducing chopping guitar chords. It's clear these players are skilled, not just at writing songs, but figuring out how much of any one sound is too much, and then taking a step back.

Unfortunately, Chasing Dragons is front-loaded. By the time "Cruel Morning Dreams" rolls from a rock n' roll backbeat into a halting waltz, the album has lost the momentum that made its first twenty minutes so promising. A horn-driven chorus brings "Tumble" close, but it doesn't quite get there. Worse, the four tunes that wrap things up are largely forgettable, leaving the impression Chasing Dragons would have been a killer EP, but doesn't quite make the long-player cut.

-Jake McCarthy

Track Listing:
1. Tied to the Moon
2. Isis
3. Squirrel View
4. Neighbor
5. Rad
6. Cruel Morning Dreams
7. Tumble
8. Live it Out
9. Of Delirium
10. Chasing Dragons
11. The Calm Before

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