Ought’s “Sun Coming Down” Is A Left-Field Entrant For Album Of The Year

Most bands that invite comparisons to The Fall — from the Pixies to the Breeders to Pavement — are so categorized because of the guitar sound.  Montreal’s Ought, who last week released a pretty stunning sophomore album, Sun Coming Down, travel a different path: guitarist and singer Tim Darcy sounds remarkably like that great misanthrope, Mark E. Smith, whose nasally sprechengesang once emerged from the speakers we listened to far more often than contemporaries such as Bono, Paul Westerberg, and Black Francis.

Ought packs a wallop, and mostly tunefully.  Trying to place them taxonomically would likely have them slotted near the Parquet Courts, but it’s hard to get around the fact that Mr. Darcy revels in his singing-talking of repeated phrases to such an extent the Fall are never far from mind.

And that’s a good thing!  If your memory goes back to the ’80s, it was a long slog from the emergence of X early in the decade to the arrival of the Pixies at the end, with — let’s face it — only The Replacements, Fleshtones, REM, U2, the Mekons, and Elvis Costello generating much enthusiasm in between.  A trio of albums in the mid-part of the decade — The Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall, The Nation’s Saving Grace, and Bend Sinister — stood heads and tails above all contemporaries.  And now comes Ought, one-time college chums in Montreal who clearly spent a lot of time studying those records and the Manchester band’s earlier output, and we give them an A+ for their diligence and enthusiasm.

Sometimes a band sound like their heroes and, while fun to listen to, you can dismiss them for second-rate imitation, a derivation without promise.  And sometimes there is a band like the Velvet Underground that spawns an entire multi-generation genre such that their derivates become a favorite category in and of themselves: from the Modern Lovers to the Talking Heads, from the Jesus and Mary Chain to Luna and the Brian Jonestown Massacre.  Listening to Darcy sing, “What is that sensation” over and over on “Beautiful Blue Sky,” and being able to place it perfectly in the context of the earlier band, we feel alright, we feel optimistic, we know we’ll be listening to these guys for a long time to come.

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