I can't quite shake the feeling, after listening to this alien music for the past week or so, that I've been duped. And though I think Prog is somewhat of a recovery after Give and (esp.) Suspicious Activity, I can't bring myself to totally sign on.
I have thoughts like these as I listen: Wow, Dave King brings something to his kit that few jazz drummers ever have (although I could do with a little less bombast and heavy-handiness). Or, Ethan Iverson's displaying some awesome chops (although he still strikes me as awfully mannered). Or, Reid Anderson actually has some pretty attractive songs on this disc (although the band unnecessarily beats "Physical Cities" to a bloody pulp).
Bottom line--I can't convince myself that these boys aren't stuck in unwitting self-parody. That is, attitude trumps substance. To be expected, I suppose, when a band comes with this much hype--and apparently believes it.
Nevertheless, I'm pretty much bowled over by the covers (unlike some of the other reviewers), especially the laconic tumescence of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" and "This Guy's in Love with You." "Tom Sawyer" strikes me as funny, and "Life on Mars" as appropriately weird.
Actually, in a lot of ways, this is a pretty killer disc, although, it must be said, the vibe pretty quickly wears thin. Consequently, I find myself not picking it to listen to for the pure pleasure it gives, but to access its quirkiness. Which, unfortunately, tends to relegate it to novelty status.
That said, it's quite an attractive novelty. Somewhere between 3 and 5 stars.