Up from the Austin theatre scene bounces Crystal Flavola, a sevenpiece fronted by award-winning actor turned singer-songwriter David Jones, and Automatic Monkey is the band's first full-length disc. With its taut vocals and pristine harmonies, Crystal Flavola betrays its theatrical background, but the band also possesses a folk-rock tinge that lends it a frivolous air shared with They Might Be Giants. Tunes such as "Dance," with its herky-jerky rhythm, and the poignant "Guitar and an Ashtray" are two examples of the troupe's deceptive ability to present simple ideas with an abundance of sound. Not everything works. On "Like Yesterday," Jones' vocals are too stiff to match the tune's breezy organ riffs, and the piano-based "Ruined" feels like an attempt at Sondheim that never reaches the stars. To its credit, Crystal Flavola is an honest attempt at something different. That the band succeeds as much as fails is nothing to scoff at.
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