Strange Exchange

Plankeye has gone through so many lineup changes that it's questionable that any of the original members remain. While their earlier albums were definitely rock/punk excursions for a younger audience, Strange Exchange and their last album, Relocation, show a growing maturity both lyrically and musically from this youth-group mentality. What has not changed is their ringing, bristling guitars that capture the muscle of these indie rock tunes. The album opens with "This Is", perhaps the strongest track. The punk influence of their early albums is evident in this driving rock assault full of pulsing guitar riffs and an intense, bursting rhythm. "The Meaning of it All" takes a slower turn with a definite U2 or Oasis vibe and cryptic, somber lyrics that search for, well, meaning: "With age comes time/ And leaves to the earth must fall and die/ Before they can find the meaning of it all." The acoustic guitar is brought out for "My Wife," a delicate track full of intricate playing that matches this emotive ode to the singers spouse. In the last two tracks the passion and intensity finally catches up with the frenetic pop exuberance of the albums first few songs, resulting in some very fine songs indeed. But it's too few too late. Between the energetic opening and the emotional ending, there's twenty minutes of "I've heard this before". The entire album is full of well-executed post indie rock with doses of The Tories and Semisonic and a dab of Brit-pop. The music is passionate, often dark, and layered, the production is sparse and dry with enough experimental flourishes (thanks to veteran Chris Colbert) to keep your interest throughout. Unfortunately, it's not an album that sticks with you. When I listen to this CD, I enjoy what I hear when I'm hearing it but when the album is over, I don't find any of the songs sticking around and I don't find myself thinking, "Hey, Mr. Cheesesocks, how about we listen to that new Plankeye CD?" Obviously the catchy melodic hooks aren't sharp enough to stay in longer than forty-five minutes.

This review first appeared in WhatzUp, August 2001.