Elusive Parallelograms’ 2008 debut, And Everything Changes, was more like a mixtape than an album; the new Modern Splendor takes that same grungy, psychedelic schizophrenia and fleshes it out into more of a conventional rock package. The band takes fewer risks, so the bursts of intensity aren’t as blistering, but there are no major clunkers—just a bunch of quickly-memorable guitar tunes.
The Parallelograms are at their best living and dying by the dirty, catchy riff, like the growler found in “Odds And Evens,” and the dizzying, criss-cross strummage that caps the title track. The band has also crafted some killer howling leads, as in the Hüsker Dü-meets-Thin Lizzy climax of “Burning In Water,” and the shoegazey swell of “No Subject.” Even when the group seems to be cramming multiple songs together, as in “Blank Expression” and “Winter Low,” the juxtaposition of tempos keeps things interesting without disrupting the flow.
Surprisingly, these more sophisticated arrangements trump the simplistic, punked-out blasts. “P90” would be more effective at half its actual length, and the way it’s paired with “Luna” makes for a less-than-dynamic suite of Sonic Youth-inspired indie-pop. Still, when singer John Hense lets himself get unhinged on the final track, “Oscillator,” you wonder where all that energy has been hiding. The Parallelograms may have grown up faster than expected, but maturity suits them unexpectedly well. Wait—is that a penis on the cover of the album?