Album review: "Voyeur"
By Mark Jenkins
Friday, July 27, 2012
Channeling British glam-pop as only a Los Angeles band can, Saint Motel makes chic and sprightly music with hints of ironic malevolence. On “Voyeur,” the group’s first full-length release, the guitars clang briskly while the vocals ascend from high tenor to outright falsetto. Sometimes, a sample, shout or horn-section riff will enter to bounce an already airborne song even higher.
These four musicians met in film school and are known for their elaborately staged concerts with cinematic effects. (The band’s debut EP featured a video for each track.) But pictures aren’t necessary when singer-guitarist A/J Jackson can write songs as detailed as “Honest Feedback” or “Feed Me Now.”
The band members have a strong sense of style, even if it isn’t always their own: The way Jackson and his cohorts inject Caribbean lilts, stomping beats and lounge-jazz licks into giddy power-pop suggests that they’ve carefully studied the Undertones’ brilliant 1981 album, “Positive Touch.” At times, the music can be almost too ecstatic, threatening to leave the listener behind. But the album’s gentlest (and possibly most personal) number, “Balsa Wood Bones,” also is the least convincing. For now, at least, Saint Motel is wise to highlight its cunning arrangements and breathless execution.