An Engaging Journey Through Pop, Cemeteries and Monkeys

As This is Futuristic (Machine Records)
The Apparitions

By Kevin Gibson

Lexington's Apparitions possess the pop chops of the Posies, the Knack or (insert your favorite power-pop band here), but with a quirkiness and purpose that at times sounds like the bastard child of the Pixies and Barenaked Ladies - whose invisible friend is the Talking Heads.

And the songwriting, which is band collaborative but led by guitarist/keyboardist Mark Heidinger and bassist Robbie Roberts, fulfills the promise by creating a wide and colorful soundscape for the group's intricately woven stories set to melody. Interestingly, Heidinger seems to be the band's wistful sense of optimism and creation, while Roberts often takes on the role of the cynic, effortlessly tossing off lines like "I've got no permit for my motor skills."

Once you hit the "play" button, the opening strains of "Electricity + Drums" sets the stage for a strange and wonderful journey, offering a chanting, upbeat pop kick-off complete with hand claps and Cars-like guitars. It isn't until you get to Roberts' "God Monkey Robot" that you realize the full potential here in terms of a band taking great pains to present a fully-developed rock album. The track is an extended metaphor for creation and destruction, comparing man to monkey. It's quite strange and, in a disturbing way, quite compelling.

Immediately afterward comes "She Burned Out Their Eyes," which is a no-holds-barred look at the end of the world, with more than a little cynicism regarding humanity and some of its popularly held beliefs. To summarize, the angel of mercy appears in the sky, smiles down upon the anxiously awaiting people and then, well, burns out their eyes. The earth comes apart and people come to understand what really has awaited them as they waited for salvation. "And the buildings crumbled / buried the cities / of the simian-brained / primitive people / they're underneath our feet / can you feel them / the earth is tilting / the world is spinning / the plates are shifting / the oceans are receding / she dragged them away / to a better place / kicking and screaming."

The album proceeds to oddly placed songs like Heidinger's "You Chirp Just Like Little Sparrows," which is curiously reminiscent of 1970s progressive rock-meets-metal in the vein of Blue Oyster Cult or early Deep Purple. But I forgive the Apparitions for this. Because the album finishes out strongly, with one of my favorite points being the jumping "Cemeteries," a look at mortality that doesn't necessarily say anything profound but works nicely as a curious two-minute, dark pop song.

"Cemeteries" then segues into the decidedly upbeat "Positively Charged," a happy-go-lucky minute and a half of joy that almost borders on sarcasm. But that's probably kind of the point, if I'm guessing right. From start to finish, one feels the Apparitions want us to draw our own conclusions.

This is no more evident than in "With Wolf Clothes On," a story about people living out at least their foreseeable future in an underground disaster shelter. While we're being told of the shelter's security and serenity - "While the air's pumped in through vents and pipes / powered by backup generators / the sound puts us to sleep at night / and we hold each other while we dream" - there's also an undercurrent of guilt and fear that isn't presented outwardly, but rather creeps in, unseen ... perhaps through vents and pipes.

One would imagine this band would put on quite an intense live show; they'll be at the Dame in Lexington January 13 and back there again on March 25. For more info, you can get a vision of the Apparitions at www.theapparitions.net.