"Monster" - latest review with Innocent Words

Regional rag Innocent Words Magazine reviews indie music nationwide, with an emphasis on Illinois and Chicago scenes. I'm still enjoying doing some writing for them. Here's my last.

Monster in the Machine - Butterfly Pinned (Emotional Syphon)
Butterfly Pinned
Monster in the Machine
(2007 Emotional Syphon)

Funny thing about titles like “New Wave” – the “new” always overstays its welcome. Classed as the backlash to disco, the early-80s-keyboards -plus-reverb-snare genre is fun for lunchtime radio, but otherwise is appropriately semi-retired. Of course, there are always some for whom the wave still rolls. Enter Bowie-inspired Shannon Crawford, the chain-smoking keyboardist-guitarist-painter (really) who’s released a 2007 new album with a new band to go with it –complete with (not so new) synth lead.

Butterfly Pinned is Crawford’s eye-shadowed brainchild, and though it’s band-attributed to Monster in the Machine, Crawford’s accompaniment seems about as permanent as INXS’ lead vocals – recording bassist Doug Ardito and drummer Josh Freese aren’t even touring.

The lead man probably doesn’t mind using replacements – his tracks are soaked in melodramatic vocal flair – whispers, echoes, counterpoints, and falsetto croanings that evoke the show-stealing emotional vibrato of a 1985 Danny Elfman (Oingo Boingo). And here comes the synth! Fat pads and programmed arpeggios barrel us into the (“new”) electronic age of music in luscious detail. “Helicopter” doesn’t make it a minute in before succumbing to a dream sequence of fading vocals and spinning effects under the heady influence of the pitch-blend wheel. And hand-keyed pan flutes (whee!) show up in at least three tracks.

The 80s-is-back-I-Heart-Duran-Duran crowd (check out “Dot on my Soul”) will enjoy Butterfly Pinned as an admittedly skilled revival entry in the New Wave. But those who don’t like it so thick should run sideways to the tenured and original Of Montreal. Unless you’re producing an over-sexed new 80s film. In that case, Shannon Crawford’s got your walkout credits covered.

~ Chris Ridgeway
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