Agent Sparks - Not So Merry [CD/DVD] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Agent Sparks

Not So Merry [CD/DVD] (2005)


Rising from the ashes of former major label act Audiovent, Agent Sparks marks a real departure from the radio rock that AV made a name with. What's come about instead is a quirky indie pop record with a decent amount of bite.

It's not all sunshine and roses, however, as the band does run into a few problems with their debut EP, Not So Merry. Being that it's a pop record at the core, what's most important is a good amount of solid hooks, something to really mark each song with its own identity, something to stick out. That's not quite how things panned out, however, as in many instances they decided to take a more experimental route in their songwriting.

Not experimental in the sense that they're going to throw in a bunch of bleeps and glitches with some droning metal every once in a while, just in the sense that the guitar work is unlike anything you'll find in a pop-rock record, instead coming out closer to Sonic Youth than anything. "Mr. Insecurity" exemplifies this, as it is one of the songs with a clear cut chorus, but the guitar work before that final chorus tweaks out into some noisy soloing before the falsetto vocals of Ben Einziger come back into float over the top of some real rock‘n'roll rhythms. "Camouflage" compliments Einziger's free-flowing vocals with that of singer Stephanie Eitel, who joined the band for the sole purpose of contributing lyrics and vocals. The entire song is much more laid back than the previous two songs, but there's still some moments of spastic freakouts to be found very subtly underneath the rhythms. Unfortunately, by the end of the track, there's about 30 seconds worth of repeating "ohhhhh ahhh ahhh ahhhh."

The jangly "Choke" is plush with delightful vocals and very agreeable rhythms; it's really just a perfect pop track, with those male and female vocals complimenting each other quite nicely. This is the path that the band would have done well to be taking all along.

Most are bound to find something to enjoy about the EP, but some more focused and concentrated songwriting could spell great things for them in the future. They just have to iron out some details, and find just what direction they want to be traveling, because they simply can't record another album with this kind of indecision.