Freezing Scene
When Two is a Crowd

by D.M. Jones
When Two is a Crowd

The Freezing Scene

When Two is a Crowd

As they prepare to strafe the Midwest this spring/summer with their singularly quirky brand of electro (they call it “eclecto”) political-keyboard rock, the brothers Bodnar – aka The Freezing Scene – and their insularly catchy approach to songsmithery (my term) can be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home/car/kiosk via their new release, When Two is a Crowd, out on the local Recorded Recordings Records.

Though it may be easy to construe the title as pointing to troubled waters between the bros, a spin of this cohesive disc implies pretty much the opposite: that the two of them don’t need no stinkin’ studio-hogging full band to make some glorious, angular and pointed noise. While still trading in the stop/start Talking Heads-isms that powered their 2007 debut EP, It Gets Better, The Freezing Scene improve both production values and songwriting depth on their first full-length release. Where the previous release thrived on warbling synths (I’d swear I haven’t heard some of those sounds since the heyday of pre-Erasure duo Yaz) Crowd pushes into the epic territory of Arcade Fire. “Empty Nest Syndrome” is a great example, shimmering with stately keys, granted earthiness by a decidedly un-electronic mandolin, with impassioned – if charmingly unsteady – vocals courtesy of Jason Bodnar. I suppose this is where the Beat Happening references that have been floating around might come into play, but, according to the Bodnars, neither of them were ever “cool enough” to have even encountered the Olympia, Washington band.

However indirect their influences, The Freezing Scene put them to good use here. “Pyramid Scheme” drips with sarcasm; it’s a long-lost cousin to Pink Floyd’s “Money,” if only in spirit. The gloomy title track adds a touch of Joy Division atop its dirge-like synthetic bassline and disaffected, alienated content, as does “Stand, Sit, Kneel,” a hypnotic minimalist screed against authoritarianism. Too jerky to be disco, too serious to fall into They Might Be Giants smirkiness, “Human Suggestion Box” nonetheless catches the ear with its mildly cheesy organ and hitching vocals. Another mandolin-aided tune, “The Introvention,” would be reminiscent of a cool Pavement b-side if Pavement used, uh, mandolin and keyboards instead of those six-string thingies. Anyway, it’s a flighty tune that rewards an additional listen.

Compelling guitar-less bands that rock – especially amongst the area’s original indie crowd – are a rarity, which alone makes The Freezing Scene worth checking out. When Two is a Crowd is full of interesting sounds, compelling lyrics and vocals and clean production. It’s worth a serious listen. Go to www.thefreezingscene.com or myspace.com/thefreezingscene to order this CD. (D.M. Jones)

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