Clearly besotted with pre-millennial sounds from the UK underground, local shoegazers Black Books soaks in sonic storms and dream-pop psychedelia on their long-awaited second LP, Can't Even. Rather than raid its record collection like overeager fan boys, the Austin sextet employs its influences with precision. Gary Numan-esque synthesizer preludes, hooks borrowed from the Verve, and guitar muscle inspired by Catherine Wheel on "Put Your Money Down" amalgamate seamlessly rather than thieve. Melodies often begin gently, dreamily, before rearing up in waves of amplifier squall. Yet no matter how mighty the sonic emissions, the music never drowns out Ross Gilfillan's plaintive moan. The Books encourage a touch of melodrama with their arrangements, allowing pop song "Golden OK" to billow into a lighter app-hoisting anthem and rocker "It Could Be Better" to rage through beautiful fury. Projecting its romantic arc onto an epic widescreen, ballad "Crybaby" achieves the kind of glory that made the kids cry before emo. Holding nothing back, Can't Even belies the emotional repression implied by its title. (Album release: Mohawk, Sat., Feb. 25)
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