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Midwest Product: Specifics

Album: Specifics
Label: Ghostly International

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For all of the inspired retrofitting emerging from the garage-rock, post-punk, and electro revivals, few bands have demonstrated much more than good taste and ample chops. Whether oppressively faithful to their muses or drably content with worthy retreads, groups from The Strokes to Liars to Soviet have thus far been too tidy with their manifestoes to secure much sustainability. Midwest Product has a lot of work to do before it leaves a lasting mark, but Specifics is excitingly messy and intriguing enough to sound a horn for what may yet prove to be an epochal in-between moment for rock and dance music. Recording for the Ghostly International label, which organized the electro compilation Tangent 2002: Disco Nouveau, Midwest Product sounds like a band trying to follow New Order's cues, but succeeding only part of the time. The album-opening "Still Love In The Midwest" glides behind cascading guitar chords and high-neck bass runs that have Substance written all over them, but the restless groove and gangly breakbeat programming suggest a band ill-suited for straight tribute in all the right ways. Falling somewhere between sloppy and organically precise, Midwest Product shuffles and flails through a goosed-up brand of post-rock that sounds live even when it's all electronic. Naturalistic drums and guitar bursts stand on equal ground with programmed beats and electro squiggles on "Reminder" and "Lethal Cop (Kurt Russell)," both of which reveal a trio casting sideways glances at its machines in a fits-and-starts spell of brittle negotiation. When it comes up short, the album lumbers through vaguely funky post-rock and straight electro resurrection. But when it locks into a mission too uncertain to be constraining, Specifics hits on happy accidents and magical miscues worth sussing out.