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Killing Heidi
Relector
Wah Wah Records


The Players:
Ella Hooper Ė Vocals
Jesse Hooper Ė Guitar
Warren Jenkin Ė Bass
Adam Pedretti Ė Drums
Complaints Dept. Punk/metal looks + violent name + teen pop = bargain bin.

Iím going to attempt to describe the music of Reflector in a way that those who will like it can recognize it and enjoy it. I donít know why I bother, since like the album, this review wonít reach the right audience. Itís the most impressively complex pop music you are likely to hear for quite some time. The musicianship is startling, the lyrics are personal, and Ella has an agile and professional voice. As a whole, it has a Selena fashion about it.

The taste of No Doubt on Mascara is more than the "stupid girl" line. Remove the punkinska flavor, and this is what youíd be left with. "Blue Moon" is hinted at in strings and doo-wop bass. The guitars are surprisingly aggressive, but offset by Europop keys. Ella has a sweet Tanya Donelly quality to her voice. Fancy moves meant to make her sound sophisticated belie her youth. The acoustic on the very personal, "Weir" is folky goodness. Softer vocals showcase Ella at her best. The more vigorous portions bring out a grating that they find necessary to double. Electric guitar crunching textures the ballad. Itís a caring message that Iím sure Bob will hold close. "Superman" is where the band begins to demonstrate switch-hitting in the rhythms. Moderate platter scratching and smoky vocals bring Portishead into view. Ellaís lisp shows through the faster portions, while the music literally peels out. Rounding the bend, they lay low perfectly. The wrap-up gets repetitive, but ends with torch song rewards. Although itís lyrically inferior to the rest of the disc, it beats the rest of the dribble on the market hands-down.

The breathed vocals of Icarus myth, "Astral Boy" works so much better with the gorgeous Zeppelin acoustic and stirring violins. Odd that with the slick production assessed on this project, they had the good sense to allow the guitar scratches to remain intact. The simplest arrangement here makes the most beautiful, plaintive statement. Now the eastern guitar chases its tail excitedly on "Leave Me Alone." The impeccable delivery is dizzying. Of course the tasteful use of the obligatory* may appease the nu-metal crowd, but I doubt it. For all her abilities, Ellaís voice floats a little above the music, unable to meld into it. The shelf she sticks to is a little restricting. On "You Donít Know", the shredding and scratching are interjected with Poe-like intrusions. Like American McGee, the take on Alice is frantic and brutal in, "Jar Labeled Small". The ankle-biting visions are stark to nightmarish, "By the time you read this, Iíll be fast asleep and waking. All the faces growing in me havenít felt human for a while now."

The blinding speed of "Class Celebrities" is virtually unknown in this arena. This velocity canít help but propel Ella into atmospheric soaring. The occasional lilting pirouettes swirl into Dale Bozzio. Fantastic precision rolls from Pedretti, and piston pumping guitar worthy of Billy Joe. All this said, it maintains a fun lightness via the 80ís keyboard. I wonít object to Morrisette comparisons on "Live Without It." Itís not exact, but will appeal to the same. The slower folk parts have that Schoolhouse Rock "Suffering ĎTil Suffragette" feel. The self-harmonies on "Real People" clash with themselves to the point I had to turn the song down. Still 80ís synth and backing in the drive. A traditional death-waltz time change mixes it up. Speaking of time changes, and complex rhythms, "Jonís Song" is nearly a Dave Matthews structure. Tender bits that lead into fancily crafted music where surely the band has to face each other to get it right. The syncopated waltz is impressive considering they draw it back into gentle sparseness. "Black Sheep" sways from side to side with a stupid grin on itís happy "I just got dumped" ass. This is the sort of saccharine I expect on CCM releases. But I guess itís a feel-good number to leave you with. Sure itís pretty, and flutey and peppy. With all the talent, diversity and originality they have brought to teen pop music, I would rather give Patti Rothberg a gun with my name and address stamped on it than to have to hear this well crafted album ever again.

On perpetual bargain bin scale, one being The Party, and ten being Wire Train; Reflector rates a 4, The Primitives.

*Sitar, itís the new black.

— Ewan Wadharmi

Track Listing:

  1. Mascara
  2. Weir
  3. Superman/Supergirl
  4. Astral Boy
  5. Leave Me Alone
  6. You Donít Know
  7. Jar Labeled Small
  8. Class Celebrities
  9. Live Without It
  10. Real People
  11. Jonís Song
  12. Black Sheep

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