I defy you to find a 25-track double album that hasn’t been dissed as “sprawling,” so let’s take that criticism off the table. Tenement has been bashing its way through the DIY scene since 2006, but the Appleton, Wisconsin trio summoned an added burst of ambition for its third full-length, and first for a nationally distributed label.
Given Predatory Headlights’ approachable punk-pop sound, it’s difficult to envision Tenement holding court anywhere in Atlanta other than an all-ages Masquerade show. But Amos Pitsch distinguishes his trio from the pack by adding the ringing guitars and melodic sensibility of barroom power pop legends like Paul Collins’ Beat. Nice examples emerge on “Feral Cat Tribe” and “The Butcher,” and when Pitsch sings “We belong somewhere else” on the irresistible chorus to “Crop Circle Nation,” one can imagine he was born in the wrong era.
It’s in his search for variety that Pitsch stumbles. His idea of a change of pace mainly consists of overly long, and easily skippable, incidental piano passages (“Ants + Flies,” “The Dishwasher’s Meal”). Predatory Headlights is also horribly sequenced. Pitsch does deliver some welcome diversity in the album’s back half once he turns down the electric guitars – the drunken Replacements hoedown “You Keep Me Cool” is a standout in this regard. Sprinkling them across the 80-minute running time would have heightened the impact of both styles.
Loud, shouted rave-ups remain Tenement’s calling card – and deservedly so. And there are enough of them here to declare Predatory Headlights a winner, even if a double album was a reach. Now if you really want to talk about sprawling, check out the new Titus Andronicus double album….