Sometime in 2007, there started to be a movement among some videogame critics to progress beyond the usual Consumer Reports-style reviews that ticked off the list of Music/Visuals/Controls/Gameplay. Rather, they began to get more overtly subjective and personal in the way that music critics did in the mid-to-late 60s. As a medium matures, its parallel journalism/criticism does, too. And so it came to be that certain phrases or terms were signalled out as useless for consumers; lazy shorthand for things that better writers would explain more explicitly. One of these phrases was "compelling gameplay." This is either a backhanded compliment or a straightforward one and tells the reader nothing. Yet I have to admit that sometimes, even as seasoned and good as my writing skills can be, I sometimes find it impossible to precisely say why I like something, and in the case of music, why I can't stop listening to it.
Still with me?? Good.
Mythomania is compelling. Sorry, but that's the only way I explain why I keep listening to it and yet don't think it's a great album. But I'll go into more detail just for the sake of argument.
I saw Cryptacize open for Sufjan Stevens earlier this Fall, and while at the time I (and seemingly the rest of the crowd) thought they were ok but not outstanding, something about their music stuck with me. There was something, dare I say, compelling about it. As Cryptacize count Chris Cohen as a member, a man who used to be in Deerhoof, and have a female singer with a cute-ish voice, they kind of remind me of what a more "normal" (for lack of a better term) version of Deerhoof might've sounded like. It's not entirely fair to compare the two bands since they're trying for different things, so I'll just let it drop there.
Anyway, Cryptacize play a brand of slightly playful indie rock. Rather than the jagged chords and unpredictable noise-pop of his days in Deerhoof, here Cohen employs a more grooving 60s style that some have likened to surf music. 'Blue Tears' opens with a borderline ska-like part from him, while 'My Thomania' brings to mind 60s girl groups with its wide eyed vocals and strutting, distorted guitar lines. Meanwhile, 'One Block Wonders' has quickly become one of my most played songs lately. The band opened their set with it at the show I saw, and the way it slowly builds from a simple drum line just turns some kind of key in some kind of lock in my brain.
However, when Cryptacize let Cohen sing or slow things down too much, everything falls apart. 'What You Can't See Is' is the sort of song where you feel embarrassed for the band, with its simplistic sentiments about identity and Cohen's deadpan delivery. Moreover, 'Galvanize' sounds like Beach House on a bad day, lacking any of the great production or rich melodies of that band. All of this just hammers home the uneven quality of Mythomania. There's six pretty good songs here and five weak ones, and while I'm too lazy to attempt my own order, I always get the feeling that the album is poorly paced.
And yet, there is something compelling about Mythomania. I noted in another review that I don't think Clinic's Walking With Thee is a particularly great album yet I used to listen to it a lot and still sometimes do. Well, this's a similar situation. Mythomania is not great but it's got a half dozen good songs and I still keep listening to it every couple days. Call it a compulsion.