When I was little I arbitrarily liked the Beach Boys. I admired “Good Vibrations” but wasn’t sure why. I’d never heard Pet Sounds, and when I finally did, I just couldn’t “get it.” So it’s telling that it took several listens for me to warm up to Joy Zipper’s music. Originally slated for release in ‘03 before being shelved due to the usual label politicking, and then released internationally last year, the Long Island-based couple’s sophomore effort, American Whip, is finally getting a stateside release in ‘05. The duo’s stylish, baroque pop can be traced back to myriads of influences, but it’s the psychedelic samples, live strings, sun-soaked harmonies, and crisscrossing vocal parts that are most prominent, recalling the Byrds and, yes, the Beach Boys’ seminal 1966 album. Of course, other, more modern influences can be found in American Whip‘s rush of static-y guitars (My Bloody Valentine) and quiet electronic drones (David Holmes, who co-produced four tracks here, and Air). And speaking of Air, Joy Zipper’s “33x” could have been Lux Lisbon’s theme song in The Virgin Suicides—like much of the album, the song questions death and the meaning of physical life in particular: “Pulled back my skin and found a mannequin/If I’m straight like a line then I am dying” (they go on to use the word “mannequin” again on the very next track, “Out Of The Sun,” this time as an adjective). It’s this juxtaposition of probing, melancholy lyrics and sprightly background music that makes American Whip so entrancing. Dip your toes beneath the glistening atmospheres of tracks like “Valley Stream” and “In The Never Ending Search For A Suitable Enemy” and you’ll find songs about madness, drugs, mental deterioration, and death. Brian Wilson should be proud.
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