Indiana indie-pop outfit Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s is perhaps most famous for their flap with Epic Records back in 2008, when the band-backed release Animal! went toe to toe with the label’s collection of choice, Not Animal! Essentially handpicked from the same group of songs, the simultaneous album battle became a happy accident: Both were critically acclaimed, and both demonstrated a slightly different facet of the band’s baroque style. This was mainly due to the fact that the material from which Animal! and Not Animal! was pulled was varied enough for two separate (albeit similar) interpretations. Loud and grandiose in one moment (“A Children’s Crusade on Acid”), quiet and delicate the next (“There’s Talk of Mine Shafts”), the two releases displayed a band flexing its dynamic sound with confidence.
Now with an altered lineup (including a new guitarist, keyboardist, and drummer), Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s offers up Buzzard, which suffers from a noticeable lack of distinct creativity. Perhaps the band used up all of their good ideas on the Animal! twins, as they are often content to let Buzzard wander around without any of their typical urgency, artistry, or melodic craft. Instead, the album is dragging and sluggard, a dull, haze-induced hangover from the excitement of their last release.
Perhaps nothing demonstrates this lethargy more than the album’s trio of longest pieces: “Your Lower Back” (in which vocalist Richard Edwards sounds like a poor copy of Rivers Cuomo and shares time with lame clips of psycho-sex talk), “Freak Flight Speed,” and “I Do” are all north of five minutes but go stale long before their halfway marks. “I Do,” in particular, serves as a sluggish misstep that fails to match its meticulous pace with any anguish or other emotional sincerity. The track, and other songs like it, evoke nothing more than a half-awake Edwards staring out a window, guitar in hand, desperately seeking melody and purpose in an early-morning strum session. At its crux, Buzzard seems like a pointless, ill-timed, and ultimately disappointing exercise: When not filling time with half-shaped concepts like “Tiny Vampire Robot,” it poorly shadows the brilliance of the band’s earlier work.