Record of the Week: Display Homes: What If You’re Right And They’re Wrong? LP

Display Homes: What If You’re Right And They’re Wrong? 12” (Erste Theke Tonträger) As you might expect given how immersed I am in the world of music, I’m pretty much always playing something. While I treasure the time I get to listen attentively, often music is playing in the background while I do other tasks. Every once in a while—though not very often—something I have playing in the background is so interesting or exciting that I have to stop what I’m doing and give it my full attention. That’s what happened with this debut LP from Australia’s Display Homes. I was sitting at my desk, half my brain replying to emails or some other rote task while the other half (realistically, less than half) was checking out the latest releases on the German label Erste Theke Tonträger so I could put together an order. When I first started listening to What If You’re Right And They’re Wrong?, I thought I knew what I was in for. Display Homes’ music is upbeat and punky, with a bubbly bass high in the mix, scratchy guitars, and kind of yelp-y vocals… they reminded me a lot of Spread Joy, or maybe a less hardcore version of Warm Bodies or a less arty version of Lithics or Suburban Lawns. All this comparing and categorizing was happening almost subconsciously as I listened, but when Display Homes dropped into the instrumental chorus to “Nitty Picky,” my ears perked up and the music demanded my full attention. What a beautiful melody! Now that I’ve listened to this several times, I’m struck by what a masterpiece of a pop song “Nitty Picky” is. I love the way the song takes a strong left turn during the chorus, moving from the angular rhythms of the verses (which are cool in their own right) to the almost syrupy melody in the chorus. I also love that the chorus doesn’t have any vocals… the band recognized that the guitar hook was so strong that the singer’s best option is to lie back for a moment and let it shine. That stark contrast between the verses and the choruses strikes me as a Pixies-esque move (though Display Homes sounds nothing like the Pixies), and while having the chorus part depart so dramatically from the verses is a risk, when it pays off it pays off big. All that happens on the first track, but the rest of the record also brims with subtle and brilliant pop chops. “Proof Read” is a mid-album highlight, its tense and moody verses featuring vocal melodies strong enough for mainstream radio, but with a chorus pared down to dramatic stabs that are pure punk rock. Another highlight is the closing track “Aufrutschen,” whose shimmering guitars and brilliant bass line make me think of Jawbreaker circa 24 Hour Revenge Therapy. While What If You’re Right And They’re Wrong? has all the hallmarks of a cool underground punk record, and will appeal to people who follow labels like Feel It and Anti Fade, Display Homes has a knack for pop songcraft that’s something special.

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