English Little League-the fourth album from the reunited "classic" line-up of Robert Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Greg Demos, Mitch Mitchell and Kevin Fennell-hums like angry birds along the full spectrum of rock's highways and byways (especially the byways), from rock to roll and back again.
Pollard's rebus system of songwriting (sounds made visible, abstract concepts symbolized) strung like fairy lights from the opening song "Xeno Pariah" to the galvanic closer "With Glass In Foot," kettles along at full steam throughout, punctuated by the airier constructs of Tobin Sprout ("The Sudden Death of Epstein's Ways," with it's sweet/creepy emphatic refrain of "Jesus," is a particular standout). Deeper and less immediately accessible than last year's Class Clown Spots a UFO (for instance), but no less richly striated with layers of musical goo, this album is as much the work of a guild of master craftsmen as of a singular visionary genius.
ELL (fookin' 'ell!) travels from hieroglyphic to hieratic smoother than a pharaoh's cartouche, and if the quadratic equation that runs through the middle of the record from "Crybaby Four Star Hotel" to "Birds" doesn't solve every problem in your life then you've got actual problems.
1. Xeno Pariah
2. Know Me As Heavy
3. Island (She Talks In Rainbows)
4. Trash Can Full Of Nails
5. Send To Celeste (And The Cosmic Athletes)
6. Quiet Game
7. Noble Insect
8. Sir Garlic Breath
9. Crybaby 4-Star Hotel
10. Biographer Seahorse
11. Flunky Minnows
13. The Sudden Death Of Epstein's Ways
14. Reflections In A Metal Whistle
15. Taciturn Caves
16. A Burning Glass
17. W/ Glass In Foot