The Futureheads and Dogs Die In Hot Cars may have borrowed as much of XTC as is available to be borrowed, but Pennsylvania indie-rock outfit The Complete Strategist apparently reserved a little essence of Andy Partridge to sprinkle sparingly over its debut, We Care. Bandleader Billy Kilgannon slips a little–just a little–of XTC's jagged guitars and unshakeable melodies through songs like the album-opener "Pyrosis," then fills in the leftover space with appealing folk-pop jangle. Even better are moody ballads like "Ilend" and "Patient With The Swiss Army," which use synthesizer shading and supple guitar to boost Kilgannon's nasal, hummy vocals. Indie-rock badly needs The Complete Strategist's throwback eclecticist bent. The band overcomes any technical limitations by recombining the best of half a dozen pop influences into something unassuming and freshly catchy. Twenty years ago, these guys would've been college-radio heroes.
Indie-rock has been less of a going concern in Europe, though occasionally a band like Dublin trio The Dudley Corporation emerges. In Love With The Dudley Corporation sounds as unpretentious and catchy as vintage Small Factory on songs like "What A Human Does," but the band brings down the Britpop axe at the climax of "Colossus" and flies into a post-rock frenzy over the chorus of "Glance." In Love With has a tinny sound and a reckless tone that doesn't do The Dudley Corporation's precision rhythm excursions any favors, but there's still something weirdly admirable about an Irish band taking a budget trip into the mystic. As with The Complete Strategist, it's comforting to know that some musicians are building on what's come before, not just slapping on new coats of paint.