Balthrop, Alabama

“Electricity” – Balthrop, Alabama

“Electricity” offers us a refreshing break from 21st-century indie-rock’s inclination towards obscurantism. And you can dance to it.

I’ve got nothing against a certain amount of lyrical mystery, mind you, but I think today’s exceedingly well-educated rockers often overdo it in the “what are they talking about?” category. There’s something to be said for narrative clarity and matter-of-fact insight, and “Electricity,” the dryly related story of a small town and its first long-ago Saturday night with electricity, has both. The storytelling is musical as much as lyrical here. You’ll obviously notice the noodly, sci-fi synth that is immediate aural code for “ooh! electricity!” But note too the perfect electric guitar sound, right there in the intro—that buzzy but vibrant tone, which, combined with a fuzzed-out drumbeat, feels shot through with current. When the opening riff returns in an instrumental break at 2:47, the guitar sounds even more thematically aligned; I can’t describe it but it feels to my ears like the sound an electrified fence would make if you could play it like an instrument.

As for the story itself, I like how it extends beyond the Saturday night into Sunday morning, when no one could get up because they had all been up so late. This, we are being told indirectly, is really how “things will never be the same in this city.” It’s an incisive twist.

Brooklyn-based Balthrop, Alabama was founded by Alabama-born siblings Pascal and Lauren Balthrop, who have named the band as they did for their idea that the band itself, with 11 members, is a kind of small town. “Electricity” is the semi-title-track from the ensemble’s new album, We Have Electricity, released last month on the not-for-profit End Up Records, also located in Brooklyn. After a double-album debut in 2007 and four subsequent EPs, this is the band’s first regular-length album. MP3 via Magnet Magazine.