Are We There Yet?

The Citizens

Yellow Ball Records, 2004

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


It is springtime; the sun is smiling in all its benevolent radiance over all the sublunary entities, with all the pretty flowers smiling back in unison, and winged creatures of all shapes, sizes and wing-spans tearing the free air, which is filled with sweet honest music that played by a band called The Citizens -- the air smells sweet, sounds dulcet.

Are We There Yet? has all the pleasing qualities of '80s Brit-pop, with a puckish edge: simplicity with a sense of melody, and a mischievous smirk on the face of an innocuous countenance. As the album kicks of with "What's Happening At The Seams" you know it's springtime, as singer Mark Lesseraux sings "Particles colliding; who to confide in? I feel no shame mom" in the most vivifying manner, with the most blissful background vocals, infusing further life into the music, following it up with the up-tempo "Blusher" keeping sunshine going strong. While the amiable "Blusher" is an innocent interpretation of shyness, "What's Happening At The Seams" is more ponderous; about how longer the seam can hold, before giving in to the mess that we put ours and other's lives through. Well, on one hand, if the band goes into some cheeky imagination with "Blusher," it gets more serious with "What's Happening At The Seams," but the façade, in both the cases is that of a mellifluous breeze on a bright day.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The Citizens are a mischievous lot, moving to and fro between more serious undertones, and intelligent caprices, with the presentation as amiable as it can get. Lead singer Mark Lesseraux's benign vocals swing between the flashy grandiloquent manner of Jeff Buckley, and the sublimity and honesty of Andy Partridge. He can deftly play the part of a concerned lover in "You Might Be Right" and a messed up drunk in "Deck Full Of Jokers," and on the other hand, happily reminisce on his childhood days in "Kaleidoscope," or just soulfully express his love in the most open way in "Clementine." The originality of this band, a great deal goes to the powerful, yet tender vocals of Mark, and his avatars, that provide the most heavenly background vocals.

Musically, the band doesn't shy away from experimenting with their song-styles. It is honeyed in "What's Happening…" "Kaleidoscope" and "Tell Me Something I Don't Know", an angst ridden punk in "Catch You On Your Way Down" or dopey in "Are We There Yet?" It has intricacies that are simple, earthy and elegant. While Radiohead gets all worked up about the topsy-turvy world of today and creates exotic space journeys, The Citizens have a more simplistic answer to the world, in the form of "In B For Backwards": a simple jazz tune, with sarcasm that is easy to digest ("If you're lost, just act like all the others and no one will notice. Ironically I do mean every word babe. And I feel some kinda presence everywhere").

Are We There Yet? doesn't seek to floor you at the very first encounter. It does neither keep an unapproachable distance, not letting you close to it. It is affable to those who understand honesty and the beauty of honesty. In this day and age, where everything is going electronic and plush, it is indeed heartening to see a neophyte stick to the basics and relive the good old days of 80s alt-pop, which was unpretentious and unadulterated.

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Rating: A-

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© 2004 Vish Iyer and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Yellow Ball Records, and is used for informational purposes only.