Subset Overpass (Post-Parlo)
Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., June 30, 2000
Overpass (Post-Parlo)In today's culture of contrition-as-entertainment, it's a challenge to walk the line between earnest introspection and hypersensitive whining. The collegiate pop world in particular is clogged with way too many artists trying to paint average adolescent traumas as modern-day Guernicas, arousing incredulity instead of sympathy. To their credit, Subset resists the temptation to go overboard with pathos by letting their endless grab bag of melancholy melodies create all the right moods. Overpass solidifies this year-old local trio's ability to craft sweet and sour power-pop paeans to broken dreams, failed romance, and societal alienation that would sound great on the radio -- if the radio still played such things. Through 13 songs, the album never fails to engage its hook-seeking constituency, a lesson driven home by every revered pop act from Badfinger all the way up to Sloan. Many of Subset's tunes, such as the urgent "Defeated" and the more somber "Umbrellas, for Example," are given extra weight by sparse, New Wave-style piano and keyboard fills. "Strained" utilizes an obvious yet harmonically dead-on vocal phrasing of its title to capture a feeling of closing-time hopelessness, while the band's choppy chord progressions on "Disarmament" gives that song an angular tension that recalls Mission of Burma. Always ones to bow in servitude to the song as a whole, Subset never lets you forget that heartbreak always sounds better with a good beat.