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Pop Music | RECORD RACK

Hitchcock meets the Beach Boys

April 02, 2006|Kevin Bronson

Irving

"Death in the Garden, Blood on the Flowers" (Eenie Meenie)

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AMID the measured clamor of vintage noises on the sophomore album by Los Angeles quintet Irving, one timeless theme emerges: head versus heart. Whether set to handclaps or heartbeats, it will never be anachronistic to sing "I wish my brain had a map / to tell me where my heart should go."

It's easy to cling to catchy, choppy choruses and dismiss Irving as retro -- after all, the band's 2002 debut is best remembered for the dorky, spell-it-out shout of "L-O-V-E." But its new slacker pop gem (and first release since a 2003 EP) doesn't have its title for nothing -- this could be the Beach Boys scoring a Hitchcock movie.

"Death/Garden, Blood/Flowers" shares a worldview, if not a bag of tricks, with the Magnetic Fields opus "69 Love Songs." Never mind that Irving seems a bit helter-skelter, what with the fingerprints of each of its five members showing up throughout the album. One minute you're languishing in the domain of wistful afternoon dances and imagined daytime romps, and the next you're processing cinematic images of blood all over the bathroom floor.

It's impossible not to shudder when, on the closing track, the narrator takes along a bottle of pills on a walk in the hills. You'd think this album would be enough.

-- Kevin Bronson

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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