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Rhythm of Black Lines

Human Hand, Animal Band (Gold Standard Laboratories)

Reviewed by Michael Chamy, Fri., May 14, 2004

Phases and Stages

Rhythm of Black Lines

Human Hand, Animal Band

(Gold Standard Laboratories) You love to see these things happen to local boys. After five-plus years and two albums on local label Sixgunlover, Austin's Rhythm of Black Lines has found a home on Gold Standard Laboratories, San Diego's finest indie. They now find themselves labelmates with a stable of excellent, challenging rock bands like the Locust, Kill Me Tomorrow, SXSW standouts Year Future, and the Mars Volta, whose eye-catching surrealist album art ROBL may have aped. Human Hand, Animal Band is quite the package, from the cover collage and cardboard overlay to the superior musicianship within. Unfortunately, musicianship and true appeal don't always jibe. After years as a primarily instrumental band, Human Hand is filled with oblique poetry and some sort of bizarre storyline. There is little, however, to recommend Clint Newsom's pedestrian vocals. Slower and less noodly than the band's previous incarnation, Human Hand incorporates several guests, including Brown Whörnet's Peter Stopschinski and Tosca's Leigh Mahoney and Sarah Nelson. The end result is highly ambitious and ever-morphing, like a watered-down Polvo with an expanded lineup. If this sounds taxing, well, it is. The album's three-part centerpiece "PJS" is its finest hour, moving from slow-simmering rock to swirling, oceanic waves of sound. In the end, chops, ambition, and creativity just can't compensate for a lack of melody, energy, or a coherent artistic statement. Too valiant to dismiss, too difficult to love.

**.5

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