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Preston School Of Industry | Monsoon (Domino)
With hindsight, we were looking in the wrong direction entirely. We waited, and we waited, yet Steve Malkmus' post-Pavement magic seemed somehow less magical with each passing moment. Then his former friend and right-hand man appeared unexpectedly, to quietly steal the thunder and many of the plaudits. This second full-lengther from Scott Kannberg aka Spiral Stairs in association with the Preston School Of Industry is apparently - though not at all blatantly - a "more personal, very political" record, made post 9/11 in the company of Wilco. In truth, 'Monsoon' is effectively 'All This Sound Gas' Part 2, which is no bad thing at all.
Packaging that boundless joy of his debut with a country-tinged slant and a typically backwards-coming-forwards lyrical bend, Kannberg's skill is his ability to put a spring in every skewed alt-pop stride, something Malkmus has misplaced. Caught In The Rain is joyous back-street Beach Boys, So Many Ways Will Oldham caught on a cheery day, Tone It Down reassuringly happy-go-lucky. It's so overwhelmingly warm; it's easy to forgive Kannberg's indistinctive voice, and for straying a touch too close to past glories on occasions. On a bleak winter release schedule, Preston School Of Industry point the way to the summer. Via this marvellous 'Monsoon'.

Ian Fletcher
March-April 2004