Pity the poor band that develops a reputation as an impressive live act. All that word-of-mouth praise that results in your next show in town always being a big deal; that should be a good thing, right? Well, sure–unless the time comes for you to finally deliver your debut album, and what emerges from the studio bears little resemblance to the vibrant, communal enthusiasm your fans have been experiencing at your shows.
Such is the case with Body Faucet, the first full-length album from Athens, GA’s Reptar. Over the past couple of years, the quartet has been delivering energetic and welcoming concert experiences that have been low on subtlety and high on percussive, pogo-ready power-pop. Those shows dish up mildly interesting musical strains that make their way to the surface–the deceptively complex, South African-inspired rhythms, the treated synths–but the signature marks of Reptar live are the glistening melodies and dead-simple chant-along choruses that manage to bring even the most hesitant crowd together.
Unfortunately, a buoyant concert experience is difficult to translate to record, and while Body Faucet should be a warm and joyous album, it’s rather dry and airless instead. Yes, Reptar still sounds like the combination of post-”Oxford Comma” poly-rhythms and ’80s synth-pop you never thought you needed to hear, but producer Ben Allen (Washed Out, Animal Collective) is unable to generate any organic electricity from those elements.
The album is most successful when Reptar gets the most direct: Cuts like the forceful Atari-funk of “Sweet Sippin’ Soda” and the dynamic New Wave rush of “New House” are Body Faucet‘s simplest numbers, but they’re also the most powerful. Even the lolling groove of “Isoprene Bath” manages to work, as Reptar cuts its rhythmic complexities with a driving and insistent chorus; sadly, its effectiveness is tempered by the track that follows it, “Orfice Origami, a hand-clap rocker that’s perfect for the stage, but sounds like rudderless mush here.
And that’s indicative of the main failing of most of the rest of Body Faucet: The band’s live energy has been muffled, while their nuances have been tamped down to the point of being inconsequential. By splitting the difference, they’ve created a work that’s neither fish nor fowl. It’s definitely enjoyable, but it’s also inconsequential.
Essential Tracks: “Sweet Sippin’ Soda” and “New House”