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The Vandalays | (re)begin (Slip Records)
Chicago-based The Vandalays were formerly a band called The Quick and, for reasons better known to themselves, have decided to release what they describe as a 'power pop concept album.' But before you run for the hills, hear me out. The story goes like this: there's this guy called Rick and his friend, Jen. Rick begins to realise he can't go on like he has been and decides to reassess his life and opts to '(re)begin'. Got it? Yup, I'm no wiser for that, either. Frankly, I don't particularly care, for you would not know this was a 'concept' through listening to the music or the lyrics or whatever.
For a start, there are no lyrics to follow, even if you wanted to, but maybe that's because The Vandalays don't want to come across all deep like the Pretty Things with 'SF Sorrow' or even like The Who, with 'Tommy' - would that the music contained within this CD was a fraction as good. This may be the world's first power pop concept album - now there's an accolade! - but, in truth, '(re)begin' isn't that good. For a start, all the songs sound the same, the arrangements are almost brutally spartan and the production is plain to the point of dull. At best, The Vandalays sound like a band trying to be a sweeter Jam and pretending they're prog-rockers by dreaming up this concept album idea.
'(re)begin' is not life-changing; which is a shame because Chris, Dave and Ken (namely, The Vandalays) can play and must be earnest about what they are doing to commit themselves to this pretty ridiculous idea. Next time round, ditch the concept, fellas, and go for the songs.

John Stacey
March-April 2004