Though they hail from my hometown, The 1900s sound far more California than Chicago. Appropriately named (ain't nothing 21st Century about this group except its Web site), this band of unusual size was signed to Parasol Records on the strength of its first-ever gig in the same month it finished recording the half-dozen ambitious pop songs collected on its debut EP, Plume Delivery.
Having gotten the indie noise and angst out of their system playing with a range of bands over the past decade, core members and high-school friends Edward Anderson (vocals and guitar), Tim Minnick (drums) and Michael Jasinski (guitars and keys) joined up with bassist Charlie Ransford in late 2004 to start writing and recording more pop-oriented material. Seeking additional textures, they added vocalists Jeanine O'Toole and Caroline Donovan and since-departed violinist Kristina Dutton and The 1900s were born.
The smartly sequenced Plume Delivery opens with its most readily appealing track, the jaunty, O'Toole-sung "Bring the Good Boys Home." The organs swirl in all the right places while a sturdy rhythmic undercarriage propels the song forward, O'Toole waxing poetic around the song's anti-war theme, a swell of trumpets and Anderson joining in toward the end to help fill in the blanks about the wide-eyed, posin' dupe who sent the boys out on a fool's errand. Sharing a title and a sentiment with the Only Ones (as famously covered by Yo La Tengo), "Whole of the Law" is a sunny, breezy piece of near-perfect chamber pop, O'Toole and Donovan harmonizing with Anderson to nice effect, making for a pair of keepers from this EP.
Elsewhere, though, Plume Delivery evinces the fascinating yet frustrating tendencies of a band in search of its sound. "Patron Saint of the Mediocre" downs some of the brown acid as it stretches over seven minutes in length, building from a Velvets-by-way-of-Stereolab groove into trippier "White Rabbit" turf, the two female vocalists playing a monotonous game of hide-and-seek for a loooooong minute before the woodwinds and key runs take us on home. "A Coming Age" delivers a gentle, string-laded lament of the morning after well-trod ground but ably executed. A peppy but inspiring instrumental and a song sketch complete this fairly promising start, with the next installment expected to drop in the form of a full-length album next spring.