This is Western Civ's third offering, and it shows. Their press release is full of bashful meanderings about not being able to define their sound, which is dandy-- I can't define whether I'm wearing my glasses until I spent ten desperate minutes tearing the apartment apart (and, by the way, I am wearing my glasses). However, they clearly know enough what they want their sound to be to claw their way there with a vengeance.
I admit, when listening to these tracks I was initially turned off. These are definitely children (or maybe friends with benefits) of the 80s/early 90s stock which means a certain degree of hardcore minor-chord "argh life sucks" jerk rock. The first thing that made me pay attention to their cuts was the eponymous REM (ha! it's a pun!) jangly guitar, a sound which I wish I could wrap up and give as a present on Valentine's Day because it says "I love you" better than novelty boxes of Nerds (thank you, Professor Makagon). After that, my turnabout was virtually guaranteed. Their sound-- even at its most angst-ridden-- has a floating reverb quality that screams "Sonic Youth! REM! Silver Jews!" (And their next album seems to have been produced at Mitch Easter's Fidelitorium Studios... ha.) Even more amazing is when you realize this sound's coming from essentially three dudes, supplemented occasionally by three other dudes and a folding chair. Any band that mics a folding chair is okay in my book.