Following a rather nondescript second album, Wisconsin's Paris, Texas returned with this five-song EP and a new guitar player, Nolan Treolo, to replace the departed Matt Mangan. The problem with the previous effort, though, was not the guitar playing, it was in the songwriting. The band seemed caught halfway between a conventional indie rock mode and more experimental post-rock noodling, and singer Scott Sharpe couldn't figure out if he was a punk singer or Lou Reed disciple long enough to stay in tune. The playing itself was pretty interesting. The guitars scraped out some lovely, angular chords, and Matt Tennessen's bass work was propulsive (though not as endlessly intriguing as it is in Pele), but the songs simply were not there. That would have been fine if the noise itself was Paris, Texas' object, but they clearly meant to convey punk-pop melodies, and those melodies lacked any sort of distinctiveness. Whether it is a result of the slightly altered lineup or simply maturation, Brazilliant is a dramatic rejuvenation of their previous sound. The band have astutely moved Tennessen's amazing, bulbous bass to the forefront until it is almost the lead melodic instrument, leaving the discordant guitars to scratch out texture, and dropping Sharpe's vocals beneath the fray where they can be more effective as another instrument rather than as a focal point. Although the album title implies bossa nova or some other melodically sunny form of exotica, the album still features intense rock music that is informed by the punk aesthetic with, interestingly enough, a bit of classic arena rock thrown in. The songwriting is honed considerably as well, the pop-style melodies exchanged for more open-ended song structures that suit the band's strengths. The songs are still not wholly satisfying, but they are improved. And it may not yet be brilliant, but Brazilliant is a strong step in the right direction.
© Stanton Swihart /TiVo