The first thing one notices about Jumbling Towers is singer-keyboardist Joe DeBoer's voice which sounds like that of a pilled-up British dandy, a cross between Syd Barrett's manic observations and Robyn Hitchcock's slightly devilish whispers. It's an act, to be sure, but no more of an act than Jarvis Cocker's preening affectations. On the band's self-titled debut album, there are plenty of moments when it's easy to think that Jumbling Towers is the next young, well-coiffed British group, rather than four Midwesterners. And in a way, that's the charm of this band DeBoer is living proof that not every rock singer in St. Louis has Jay Farrar's drowsy drawl. Some actually emote!
But the band's greatest strength is how it marshals its sounds in good proportion; the songs are never overstuffed or self-indulgent. There's a little bit of dance-punk in the rhythm section (which is occasionally heavy on the hi-hat and bubbly bass lines), but the shrill jangle of the guitar keeps the music grounded. The use of rich, distinct keyboards further sets Jumbling Towers apart. More specifically, the wheezy, cheesy Farfisa organ parts recall Clinic, and the bell-like Rhodes electric piano adds both bottom-heavy warmth and eerie, trebly twinkles. Tracks like "Pure Jew" and "Beggars" are worth seeking out, but the true highlight is "He's a Cop Now," which wastes no time in setting the mood with a simple, Joy Division-like bass line before DeBoer yelps and slinks through vaguely sinister lyrics. Christian Schaeffer
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