At Crystal Palace
By: Eric Greenwood
Erase Errata has been riding a wave of hype since its debut, Other Animals, allowed crusty white kids that haven't the faintest idea how to dance a chance to take over the floor without shame for their collective lack of rhythm. Erase Errata's brand of art punk steals liberally from Gang Of Four's staccato Modus Operandi, and bands like The Rapture, Moving Units, and Radio 4 all dance to a similar un-beat. Why no one mentions Chicago's underappreciated noise rock trio, the Scissor Girls, when writing about Erase Errata, though, I do not understand, because the similarities are just too blatant to be coincidental.
On Other Animals Erase Errata teetered on the fence between a band that might not know how to play and a band that might have hit an artsy, no-wave bull's-eye. The general consensus is that the latter theory prevailed, although, I am still not fully convinced, as "atonality" is often misconstrued for "complexity." I can only take so much calculated affectation disguised as herky-jerky, unemotional hipness. It may be fun to dance to, albeit rather awkwardly, but, musically, it's a one-trick pony that runs out of steam in a hurry. Yes, it's got attitude. Yes, its nervous and thorny guitar lines prick up your ears with wiry, post-punk tension, but the punch is often lost in Jenny Hoyston's monotonous yelp.
The formula remains firmly intact for the San Francisco quartet's sophomore album. Brevity is, like, the soul of wit or something, and Erase Errata realizes its ability to hold one's attention may indeed be limited to just twenty-seven minutes, which conveniently is the running time here. The band has not lost its sense of spontaneity, often giving the feeling that the songs just popped into its members' heads, nor has it catered specifically to the dance punk trend. There is as much experimentation here as there was on Other Animals, for better or worse, but it shows that Erase Errata at least wants to be perceived as an experimental outfit. I imagine having a band like Sonic Youth tooting your horn, splitting seven-inches with you, and taking you on tour will provide you with enough bluster not to give a damn.
Yet, Hoyston's vocals seem rather inept when you consider that she doesn't play an instrument full-time. Were she churning out those twisted guitar arpeggios as well as singing, it might be forgivable and, maybe, even kind of cool, but she just huffs along in a hurried and pinched style that safely maintains some level of brash idiosyncrasy, befitting her band's angry, urgent blasts of bristling punk. Yeah, yeah, she blows into that trumpet occasionally, but that's like justifying The Blood Brothers having two singers pussyfooting around the stage because one stands in front of a keyboard from time to time.
At Crystal Palace begins with the klunky no wave sounds you'd swear you'd heard on every God Is My Co-Pilot release of the 1990's. The randomness of "Driving Test" quickly builds into a steady two note bass run, wherein Hoyston describes her near death experiences on the way home from work every day. "Ca Viewing" is instantly recognizable as Erase Errata with its spindly guitar legs and erratic beats, which is a feat in and of itself. The Slits receive a musical nod on the rhythm-heavy "Go To Sleep." But beneath all the off-kilter catchiness, quirkiness and aggression lies little of substance. This is just not music that will affect you, make you loyal, or rest atop your all-time best lists. It'll just make you dance. Badly.