Ah yes. The return of Scott Kannberg and the Preston School of Industry.
Kannberg, for those of you who are wondering, is Spiral Stairs. And Spiral Stairs used to be in this band Pavement. Now, I know that you probably miss Pavement a whole lot. Maybe you even shed a tear every once in a while and wonder what you might have done differently to help keep Pavement together. All I can do to console you is recommend you sit tight for that Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain expanded reissue.
For all the fame that Kannberg deserves for his previous artistic contributions to the world of rock 'n' roll, Monsoon probably isn't the album that will return him to the hearts of boys and girls across the globe. And Monsoon is definitely not the second coming of Pavement. While PSOI's debut, All This Sounds Gas, was a catchy collection of songs written during Pavement's reign, the songs on Monsoon are all more recent compositions and many of them seem unfinished. With the help of some famous and semi-famous friends, including Wilco and Scott McCaughey (the Minus Five; R.E.M.), Kannberg has created a fair-to-middling collection of crunchy pop music.
At the moment I'm definitely enjoying "Caught in the Rain." It actually sounds like a more recent song by the Go-Betweens; it's got a jangly sound that always resonates well with me. When I close my eyes and listen really closely, I could swear he's singing "It's always those with a past to claim it/ I've always known quite a few/ The world is not spinning/ That's enough for you." Admittedly, this song doesn't make a lot of sense, though I do like the feeling of being caught in some spring showers. I think that what makes for the best kind of PSOI song is when it messes with my head just the tiniest bit. The next song, "Line It Up," is the one track on the album that could have been a Pavement song. It rocks a little harder, the lyrics are a little less sensible, and there's a little more energy. It's a pretty great song, perhaps the best on the album.
But that's about it. The rest of the album sounds like it's half-baked not quite ready to come out of the oven. Overall, the album lacks the cohesion that would make it a keeper. And a lot of songs that start off making me think I'll like them end up doing not much of anything for me. Take "Her Estuary Twang," for example. While I think it starts off strong, its half-hearted lyrics of "ba da ba" reveal it to be little more than filler. Besides, can estuaries even have twang? Or twang have estuaries? The same goes for "Get Your Crayons Out" it too has the seemingly required rambling and ba ba ba's, and when Kannberg sings how "This must be some sort of misunderstanding," I'm kind of hoping he's right.
Equally disappointing are tracks such as "So Many Ways" in the end, so many of these songs are just a little too much on the wrong side of mellow and lazy to truly showcase Kannberg's talents as a singer and songwriter. They're too safe, too predictable it sounds like Kannberg was going through the motions, rather than really putting himself on the line. Plus, for all the years that he played second banana to Pavement heartthrob Steve Malkmus, one would think Kannberg would be more assertive on his solo ventures. Finally he's the frontman, but he's still acting like Malkmus is front and center.
By the time Kannberg sings "Now's the time to tone it down" on the album's closing track (yep, it's the one called "Tone It Down"), you want to shout back at him: Scott, it's time to turn it up!