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Sister City | Small Talk

album review by John Powell

Sister City | Small Talk

Sister City’s come a long way since Carbon Footprint, although you can bet continuity for love of garage rock and lyrically driven angst. Small Talk, however, feels more grown up- in it’s own way. The instrumentation is tighter, for one. The songs feel less like sound mucking for the hell of loudness, and now we’re seeing some good riffing.

Sister City is defined most recently as Adam Linder and Daniel Abzug, so we’re not looking at a big band. We’re looking at two indie dudes needing to rock. The album is wry, decidedly chaotic, and as rich with lyrics as Sister City’s ever been, though the songwriting has arguably tightened as well.

On the title track, Adam rages, “There's only a couple things I've ever said I truly wish I hadn't.” He’ll say whatever he’s thinking and he thinks a lot. The songs aren't great on hooks or catchy melodies, but instead shoot for Dylan-esque word play and poetry, so these thoughtful lines are often hidden. “As I run my pre-arthritic fingers through the hair I still have on my head/ I sometimes wonder which machine inside of me will be the first to break.”

Adam’s self-deprecating, but either more okay with it than he used to be, or is sure that he’s going to get over it. On “Room 222”, which is one of the album’s best tunes, he offers, “Success is a ten dollar term/ But money's not something I could ever hold on to.” See how much he can pack into two lines? There’s fun metaphor, pining over not really having money, and then, when you go back, is he really saying anything? The two lines don’t horizontally help each other out. We’re left as confused as ever.

Of course, the album’s best song title: "Today Was My Day to Die and You Ruined It”, has Adam forever chastising his peers and those that wronged him. “In the fight between substance and superficiality/ I will ignore the referee/ I will invite my enemies/ To take shots at me.” Probably because he’ll get back at them by writing a song about them.

I’m generally picky about my low-fi garage rock. There’s only so much self-loathing and angst I can handle, but Sister City does it in a way that’s less spiteful and more artful. I see each album progressively maturing, and this album is a great growth spurt for these perpetual teenagers.

Bottom line: Self aware garage rockers get tighter and remain testy.


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